By Anya Bochman
Hackettstown police’s new hire, Officer Vin Van Tassel, comes from generations of cops. His grandfather was the chief of police in Ringwood for decades, while his father and uncle were New Jersey state troopers who retired from their careers as captains. Van Tassel’s brother is currently a member of state police, while his uncle in Florida is also employed in law enforcement.
“It’s something I always wanted to do. It’s in my blood,” Van Tassel said. “I want to give a voice to people who don’t have one – I know that’s cliched but it’s true.”
Van Tassel, 35, who recently relocated to Roxbury with his wife and infant son, is following the family tradition with his current posting as Class II Special Officer who “walks the beat” on Hackettstown’s Main Street. The job requires a part-time officer to patrol the length of Main Street, reassuring business owners and residents with the presence of police.
Prior to the part-time post, Van Tassel, who also works as a security guard, was a member of the Essex County police force. Having graduated from the Essex County College Public Safety Academy, he joined the deputy sheriff’s police volunteer division. Although the members received no compensation, they had the same duties and authority as “regular” police officers.
When Van Tassel saw an online posting for the Class II Special Officer position in Hackettstown, he applied and became a member of the force.
“We’ve been looking for someone for two to three years now, but a lot of people were more interested in full-time positions,” said Sgt. Darren Tynan of Hackettstown Police. “Then, in June 2016, we advertised again, and [Van Tassel] was what we were looking for.”
Describing the officer as having a “friendly demeanor” and being “community-oriented,” Tynan stated that he “fit the mold of what we needed.”
“There’s been a lot of positive feedback,” Tynan commented. “People really like the idea.”
Although both sergeant and officer are quick to point out that the need for a police presence on Main Street didn’t arise from an uptick in crime, Hackettstown residents nevertheless expressed the desire for an officer patrolling that particular stretch of town at several council meetings.
“He makes people feel safe and at ease,” said Tynan. “People appreciate his being there.”
Echoing the sergeant’s sentiments, Van Tassel emphasized that his presence was primarily to make business owners on Main Street feel safe.
“We don’t want them to think there’s an uprise in crime, which is what they originally assumed when they saw me,” Van Tassel stated. “I had to reassure them.”
The officer, who officially started his post on July 4, speaks humbly about his part-time position working nights and weekends, and is unsure of what the future entails for his career in law enforcement. Still, he is satisfied with giving people peace of mind.
“Everyone thanks me, but I thank them,” Van Tassel said. “After all, I work for them.”
Reporting that things have been relatively peaceful since he began his post – “no major crimes happening” – Van Tassel reiterates the fact that his presence on Main Street makes business owners and patrons alike feel more at ease and relaxed.
“So far, the most dire situation I was involved in was a suspected drug overdose,” Van Tassel stated. “The person lived, and that’s what we’re here for – to keep people around as long as we can.”