Mount Olive Police Department’s Key Initiative is Fighting Crime, Building a Relationship with the Community
By Steve Sears
Mount Olive Police Department (MOPD) Chief of Police Stephen Beecher lists, with pencil on pad, his daily want of accomplishment. He prepares his list the night before, and then reads it at his desk at Flanders Drakestown headquarters the next morning.
“For me, it’s an exercise before I leave work,” Beecher says. “I’ll jot down in my notebook here with my pencil – which my guys bust me about because I still use a pencil.” He chuckles, then continues. “They’ll use their phones or computers, I’ll jot down with a pencil in my notebook what I want to do the next day. So that’s what I do; I’ll jot down things that I want to accomplish, things that we’re working on, some things are things that need to be done immediately or short term, while other are long term goals that you need to check on, and I come in the following day and we see what happens. I come in and there might be an arrest in here, and there might be any number of things that might be going on.”
Every day, for Beecher and the MOPD, is different. “It’s not boring, and that’s one of the reasons I love the job is that every day is different, you just never know what’s going to happen. I start my day like everyone else does, with an idea of what I want to get accomplished. But different things come into play in the course of the day that change that.”
Beecher’s planning, as well as that of his subordinates, bears much fruit. The MOPD, which consists of 50 officers, is accredited through the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police Association. The department was first acknowledged in 2013 and is now up for (and expected to be awarded) re-accreditation again in 2019. Accessors visited in November, and there were approximately 108 standards that were to be met. Policies and procedures have to comply, and proof must be shown that all departments are actually following those policies and procedures.
The work entailed in accumulating information for accreditation is very arduous. “It’s a lot of work,” says Beecher. “Back in 2012, when we started putting this together, Captain (Mike) Spitzer was the accreditation manager, and Lieutenant Cordileone was his assistant, and in this most recent reaccreditation it was Lieutenant Cordileone who was the accreditation manager and Corporal Wurtemberg was his assistant. Preliminarily, we have been told we did very well, and that we passed. So, we’re pretty proud of that; that will be the second time we passed the accreditation.”
Proud. An apropos word to describe the MOPD, the fine folks who guard all of Budd Lake and Flanders.
Since 33,000 residents can’t visit the police department behind the scenes, Mount Olive Life transports the reader inside police department headquarters to hear officers discuss their on-the-job challenges and what Mount Olive’s finest value most.
One thing is and will always be certain. The Mount Olive Police Department cares about neighbors and citizens, and seeks to ensure the township is a great, safe place to live.
The Mission Statement, as gleaned from the MOPD website, reads: “It is the mission of the Mount Olive Township Police Department to serve all persons within our community. Our service shall be rooted in professionalism, respect, courtesy, integrity, dignity and accountability. The members of the Mount Olive Police Department are men and women of character and compassion. We value ethical behavior, competency, and a strong work ethic among our members.
Our members are dedicated to providing the highest level of police services to the community. It is by our efforts that we seek to improve the quality of life in this community for all who live, visit or work here. We seek to provide a safe and pleasant environment for our residents, visitors and employees.
We are firm in our conviction that all persons must receive fair and impartial treatment and service without regard for race, religion, gender, age or ethnic origin. We pledge to be unbiased while executing our duties; to perform our duty while protecting the rights of all people; and to respect the lives of those we come into contact with while performing our duty.
The men and women of the Mount Olive Police Department will maintain the highest standards in serving the community and will continually strive to improve our performance and ourselves. We shall diligently seek to improve safety and protect our citizens. We are charged with enforcing laws and regulations, seeking out wrongdoing and pursuing criminals, investigating and prosecuting crimes, enforcing traffic regulations and making our roadways safer, and aiding those who are lost or in distress. We seek to develop strong ties to our community as we together attempt to solve the problems as they occur.
“We firmly believe we can’t do our job well without the support of the community.”
Beecher, who was hired as a patrol officer in 1987, and subsequently was promoted to Patrol Sergeant, Administrative Sergeant, Support Services Lieutenant, then was named Patrol Lieutenant, and then promoted to Captain prior to being named Chief of Police on August 1, 2016, is up front about camaraderie with the residents of Mount Olive. “We firmly believe we can’t do our job well without the support of the community. We need the support of the community if we are going to have any effect on crime prevention efforts – and that’s our ultimate goal, right? Our ultimate goal is to prevent crime, not just respond to calls, take reports, and make arrests. Our goal is to prevent crime and have a quality of life here in Mount Olive that people enjoy. In order for us to do that we need the help of the community, so it’s about building relationships.”
Mount Olive is 33 square miles. Coverage areas include vast portions of Routes 46, 80, and 206. The MOPD will also pitch in if needed outside these areas. “If someone calls for mutual aid,” says Beecher, “we’ll be there.” The primary responsibility, however, is the jurisdiction of Mount Olive.
Beecher is from a generation where technology pales in comparison to today. When he was hired, one computer sat in the patrol room which was available for use by everyone, but not much was done with it. “I remember our first cell phone; we had one cell phone, and the Patrol Sergeant got the cell phone, and it was like carrying a brief case. That was a big cell phone,” he laughs. “Now we’re up to these,” he says, pointing to his desk PC, “ and we’re told these have more computer power than the Apollo 13 did. It’s just incredible how technology has changed. So, we try to leverage the technologies to assist us in building relationships with the community.” The MOPD also has active Facebook and Twitter pages, the latter home to traffic detail and other tweets, the former displaying what the MOPD does in and with doing with the community. “We have the L.E.A.D. program, which is Law Enforcement Against Drugs, that’s in every 5th grade class in the elementary schools, we have the Officer Phil program which we bring in the elementary schools, which talks about child safety and such. We also have a drop off for prescription drugs.” There is also a program where students are brought to the police department to apply education to real life, such as how math is used to show how speed is judged on the roadways, and students as well have viewed a video of a staged burglary and the students had to take a report about what happened, which uses both communication and writing. “It was very well received,” says Beecher regarding the latter. Beecher also lists National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop (which is done at various locations) as other key ways of interacting with Mount Olive residents.
The Mount Olive Police Department works with directed patrol list. “You want to send your cops where there are problems, So, if people have any issues, we encourage them to call us or email us and tell us what their issues are in town. For instance, there’s a business in town right now that has a lot of seasonal employees and there has been some reported drug use, and so we’ve been asked to swing through the parking lots there to make sure there’s no drug activity going on. We’ll have incidents of criminal mischief at certain locations in town, so we’ll have our officers patrol through there. We’ll have certain intersections or streets where there’s a lot of speeding or crashes; we’ll put officers in there. So, we have an ongoing directed patrol list which fluctuates, so locations come on and off that directed patrol list as needed. Once we’ve solved that issue or seen a decrease in it, we’ll close that out, and if it reoccurs, we’ll reinsert it into the directed patrol list. It’s a list that constantly fluctuates, and the purpose is to have officers in those areas a lot of the time. So, when they’re not doing anything else, they’re going into those areas, checking on things, and if they see any violations, see any quality of life issues, they are to address them.”
Staffing – a chief concern
A chief (pun intended) concern for Beecher is staffing. “Back in 2008, when the economy tanked, not just Mount Olive but a lot of towns saw a decrease with their staffing in their police departments. So, we were at 50 officers 10 years ago, and that’s where we’re at presently. Our population has gone up, we continue to see growth, and one of the things I’d like to do is have a dedicated juvenile officer in the detective bureau. When I first started, we had a narcotics bureau and a detective bureau, we had a juvenile officer in the detective bureau, and then you had your detectives that did your general detective work. That eroded down to just your detectives doing your general detective work, and I think it’s important to have relationships with the schools, it’s important to be proactive in dealing with what kids are dealing with out there, and I’d like to have a dedicated juvenile officer to do that full time. Now, I have two detectives that are the primaries when it comes to doing juvenile investigations, but they also do other investigations as well. So that’s one of the things I’d like to have. Another thing I’d like to do is expand our personnel at the desk, our communication center. A lot of people, in my humble opinion, don’t appreciate how mission critical and how difficult and how important the communications officer’s job is.” Video is streamed in from Mount Olive High School so if an issue occurs, dispatchers can see it at the desk. There is also video from other parts of the town and inside police headquarters that dispatchers also monitor. “ The dispatchers have to take 9-1-1 calls, and when they take 9-1-1 calls, they’re not supposed to disconnect until an officer gets there. And when we have critical incidents, our desk is just flooded with calls.”
Mount Olive is the spot where the unfortunate Paramus bus crash occurred, and such busy times requite additional personnel, which the MOPD has addressed. “I can tell you what we’ve done in Mount Olive, and former Chief Mark Spitzer initiated this. We have taken our clerical personnel and we have trained them as dispatchers. So, lots of times we’ll have one dispatcher up at the desk, so if something comes in that’s critical, our clerical staff will step up and fill in there. We have three workstations, and my goal is to have two, full-time dispatchers up there 24/7. Right now, we have four dispatchers, one of those is assigned to each squad, and each squad works 12-hour shifts, and then we have a flex dispatcher who will work from 11 in the morning to 11 at night. But after and before those times, there’s one dispatcher. What I’d like to do is get two full time dispatchers assigned to each squad.”
A brief history of the Mount Olive Police Department
The MOPD is firm in its protocol in not only working for the community, but with them as well in a partnership. Officially established in 1929, it had its true genesis 60 years earlier. As the once primarily farming community grew and businesses and more residents moved into the area, there was need of law enforcement. The Mount Olive Vigilant Society was formed on December 22, 1859 and in the 1920s, the township hired two constables, Harold McLaughlin and his assistant, George Hildebrandt. In 1929, Mount Olive Township officially established a police department, and Dan Tremitier served as the first Chief of Police. However, at this time the MOPD did not have two-way radio in patrol cars; officers were notified of a call when a flag was hung out the second-floor window of the municipal building or a blue light was turned on. Once observed, officers had to stop by the municipal building to receive call details. 1941 was the year the MOPD had benefit of squad cars with two-way radio.
The MOPD then had grown to eight officers, two Detectives, three Sergeants, and Chief of Police, and the department was aided as well by 20 Special Officers. Major roadways – Route 46 in Budd Lake, Route 206 in Flanders, and the completion of Route 80 – meant more MOPD responsibility, and the eventual creation of the International Trade Zone initiated more residential development.
Today, the MOPD serves a growing (and soon to grow more) community of approximately 30,000 residents. Beecher adds that one of the big challenges in town, which he feels is probably a challenge in a lot of towns, are traffic issues. “Route 206, as a result of our increase in population, has become a critical link between Routes 80 and 287, which means an increase in traffic. The same for Route 46. “West of us,” says Beecher, “which used to very rural 30 years ago, has gotten to be more populated. So, we have a lot of heavy traffic getting on 46 to 80 and coming west at night. In addition, we have a 250-home development going in off of Route 46 down towards the old Board of Education building down by the Village Green Mall, and we have a planned 700 home development going in off of Love Lane.”
Communications and Dispatch is Critical
Michael Cordileone, an officer of 22 years, serves as Lieutenant of a key MOPD function: Communications and Records, which includes dispatch, the initial contact at the MOPD.
“The communications unit is the communication center, the operations and maintenance of all the radio equipment, all of our dispatchers, so I oversee two officers in that unit and soon to be seven full-time dispatchers as well as four part time dispatchers,” he says.
The communication center, where 9-1-1 calls come in and police, fire and first aid are dispatched, is an important three-workstation realm. “The patrol division and the investigation division certainly come in contact with citizens, residents, people that work here all day long,” says Cordileone, “but certainly, if you have a problem, a question, I’m going to tell you that 98% probably come into the communication center, whether it’s 9-1-1 or a regular phone line, or a walk in. Then we either dispatch somebody or get a hold of someone in the investigations division to come and talk to them, whatever it might be. But that’s pretty much where all of our first contact comes in.”
Calls of all kinds come in, including, yes, cats caught in high trees. “It’s perception. It depends on your life. Some people are hunters, so a dead deer in the road isn’t a big deal for them, or a deer that has been struck and has a broken leg isn’t a big deal for them. For people that are animal lovers and haven’t experienced that, that’s a traumatic incident. For kids, seeing a deer injured in the road could be a traumatic incident. So yeah, the level of importance when they call is certainly dictated by everybody’s personal experience. We’ll get nurses calling in telling us somebody is unresponsive, and we need CPR, and they’ve done CPR or are trained in CPR, so their level of stress for that incident is a lot less for a normal person that has never had that experience.”
“We pride ourselves on the training we put our dispatchers through”
There are emotional, mental, and physical aspects of the job that all come into play. “Oh, there certainly is,” attests Cordileone. “We pride ourselves on the training we put our dispatchers through. They basically get 400 hours of training before we let them sit at that desk. 80 hours of basically certifications – they have to be certified for 9-1-1, they have to be certified for EMD, which is emergency medical dispatch. So, we put them through that; we have five instructors. We instruct them, test them, certify them, then we send the test out, the state takes the grades, looks at the test, gives us certification back and approval, and then we start training them with a seasoned communications officer at the desk for about 300 – 320 hours, sometimes it might be a little less if they’re doing well, or sometimes it’ll be a little bit more. They are then ready to fly on their own because there are lots of times that they are on their own.” During the day, Cordileone tries to have two dispatchers, he needs eight dispatchers to have two per shift. He currently has seven, and he is doing his best to use those seven to serve the community. “That’s kind of a work in progress right now, but we’ll get it done in the best interests of the organization and the community. But there are times when there is one communications officer up there, and they have to be able to handle an emergency 9-1-1 call which may involve dispatch and management of police services, as well as fire services, as well as EMS (Emergency Medical Services), and also on the EMS side is that of ALS, which is paramedics. So, there are a lot of aspects that have to be handled up there possibly by one person. So, to your original question, it is an emotional and mental toll on them, and because they are trained so well, we hope for training purposes that they experience all different types of calls so that they can adjust their stress levels and understand what to do under a stressful situation.”
As previously noted, dispatch was contacted during the sad Paramus school bus crash in May 2018. “That was a lot of patients: 46 patients, 2 fatalities. With something so large, you have so many people wanting to help, and it’s not just that there’s a loss of life, it’s putting your emotions and stress in check in order to be able to handle the call, because you’re getting such an overwhelming response that you kind of have to know, ‘Push this aside right now; we’ve got a job to do.’ And that takes an emotional and mental toll on you.”
Officer Ryan M. Hammell has been a resident of Mount Olive for 27 years and has worked as a dispatcher since 2016. In addition to the all the duties previously mentioned by Cordileone, he and the other dispatchers also dispatch animal control, sewer and water and the Department of Public Works for any incidents in town that require their services. “We are also tasked with collecting paperwork for firearms packets, bail reform and handling paperwork for local ordinance. “As a dispatcher there are no typical days,” Hammell states. “Some calls require more attention and time due to their severity and need for more resources. Other calls require less attention and are handled in a timely manner. Days vary in the number of calls received, so it is necessary to be prepared for anything.”
As for public misconceptions regarding the MOPD and dispatch, Cordileone says, “They (the dispatchers) don’t necessarily know how the roads are. They don’t know how Route 80 is. They don’t necessarily know if the schools are closed or open. We try to have as much communications as possible, though.”
Hammell adds, “I think the big misconception is that all we do is answer phones. Even though answering phones is our primary function, we are usually performing multiple task at the same time.”
Including Hammel, there are 6 other dispatchers: Communications officers Mirsik, Johansen, Maio, Papa, Zuckerman and Lamanna. In addition to 7 full time communications officers, dispatch has 3 part time communications officers, Cheryl Henderson-Brill, James Seeger, Mark Adamsky and three full time records clerks, Darrell Hooper, Karissa Sevensky and Emily Loughman that are certified as communications officer and assist at the desk during high volume times.
With regard to the Records Division, Cordileone’s team is responsible for all the records, investigation and supplemental reports, all discovery requests to be sent out (when someone gets arrested, attorneys will send requests for discovery), they’re in charge of all OPRA, in charge of all what’s now called DOORS (the division of archived and record management), submitting requests to destroy records if they fit into the categories, and they deal with personnel orders and purchase requests.
“…knowing that you helped somebody in some capacity is always a comfort”
Cordileone, who is also the Supervising Weapons instructor and Use of Force training, says he enjoys his job, but he does miss being out on the road. “When I was a young officer out on the road, just to go to somebody’s house to do the typical get the cat out of the tree kind of thing, it’s a sense that you were able to connect with somebody and help them out on a personal level. In here, we help everybody, the communication center is the nerve center, everything comes in and goes out, we do everything we can do to make sure we can connect to them, and we’ll give CPR instructions over the phone if need be, so there’s a connection there. But when I signed up for this job, it was really to help people and to try and make a difference in one person’s life. Obviously, you’re not going to change the world, but being able to go home at the end of the day knowing that you helped somebody in some capacity is always a comfort.”
“…it’s coming where you’ll have almost every school in the district having a police officer there”
As Lieutenant of the MOPD Support Services Division, Phil Lucivero oversees “all the stuff the police department has to take care of besides investigating crimes and solving crimes and arresting people. So, I have a Sergeant, a Corporal, and officer who’s here, an officer who’s at the high school – a school resource officer, and two class threes who are also in the high school. It’s not required (at the high school), but it’s a program that the state started last year that we instituted for this school year where we put a full time police officer in the high school and we hired two recently retired police officers who have all their certifications, and they’re up at the school, too, during the day.”
School safety is a big thing, and the MOPD recognizes it. “I think,” says Lucivero, “it’s coming where you’ll have almost every school in the district having a police officer there. Right now, we have them only at the high school. My guys inside here handle all the firearms applications for people wanting to buy guns, we do Megan’s Law, people who need to register, we do outside activities, and a big one we do is the L.E.A.D. program, which has taken over for DARE. Both of my guys are L.E.A.D. certified and they go around to the elementary schools, the fifth graders, and they’re in charge of that. So, that’s kind of a snippet, and whatever else comes down the pike that the Chief or Captain say ‘Hey, I need you to take care of that’ it usually comes in this division.”
Purchase of firearms: you never want them in the wrong person’s hands; Megan’s Law : the great issue regarding sex offenders; and drugs: seemingly a non-stop, non-defeatable issue. “Yeah, those three, they take up a big part” claims Lucivero. “Then we help out with the traffic, my Sergeant is the backup traffic officer, we’ll sometimes get side press releases, we’ll handle the outside activities, so anytime a company wants to hire us to work a traffic post, we handle that, we’re in charge of the breathalyzer machine, making sure it’s not malfunctioning. So, we run the gamut. A to Z, and that’s Support Services.”
“I’m happy I wound up here”
Lucivero will enter year number 25 in law enforcement on January 30, 2019. “I’m happy I wound up here,” says the former resident of Parsippany. “Mount Olive has been everything and then some for me, it really has. Beautiful view (from his office window), I think the town is run well, I think the PD is run well – obviously I’m biased – but we’re squared away.”
Lucivero recalls that, when he first arrived, the MOPD was pretty aggressive and proactive in its duties. “At the time, and we’re talking the mid-90s, you were visible, you had as many cars as you could, you were on Route 46 or on 206 and you were looking for things. We still do that and then some because there’s so many more responsibilities now. Technology has gone…unbelievable. When I first started, I got into a 1991 Chevy Caprice that had a police radio and a little toggle switch underneath the dash that flipped to make the lights go on. Now there’s cameras in the car, there’s a laptop, there’s a computer, I have access to everything, I have a computer to print out my tickets now. That’s the biggest things to me: the technology, the advancements in 24 years, for the better, absolutely. And, it’s made everyone more accountable.”
There is so much more that the MOPD does now, and its biggest needed resource is people. “You can always use more people, can always use an extra set of hands. The population, the technology…I’m not sure of our staffing has followed that. I think 10 years ago we had 55 guys, and we’re down to 49 guys. In those 10 years, there’s more stuff, there’s more people, more housing developments going in on 46, and another is about to start on Love Lane off of Route 80. Ideally, we’d bring up our staffing to match that. But we’re doing good though.” The MOPD gives much back to the Township of Mount Olive. “I think the level of service the citizens get each and every day is second to none, and that’s by way of how we enforce the laws, how proactive and reactive we are to the community, and I know since I’ve been in this division, the Chief has made it clear to me how he wants us involved in the community events. This fall, for example, almost every weekend, I was coming in for Shop-Rite Bag Hunger, Coffee with a Cop. We were out last Saturday (December 2018) handing out teddy bears. I think we kind of work hand in hand with the community very well, and I think it works.”
“We’re a good, solid, squared away PD. I’m on the inside, I do it, I’m working, I feel like it’s noticeable and people will see that we know what we’re doing. Like anything else, if you make a mistake, you admit it, you move on and you learn from it, and thankfully it doesn’t happen that often.”
“Mount Olive is a thriving, growing community that is a wonderful place to put down roots.”
“If a person picks up to call, we respond”
Lt. Craig Austenberg graduated Mount Olive High School in 1985, and Administrative Sergeant of the Patrol Division, Mark Carlstrom, 1986.
“Pretty much,” Austenberg responds when asked if he’s home. He then adds, “Usually when you think of the police, usually when you make that phone call, you’re going to be thinking of those guys in the blue suits to show up.”
The patrolman’s unit is made up of four squads of seven, including two currently being trained, in addition to Austenberg and Carlstrom. “The job itself is so diverse,” says Austenberg, “that you have to be able to respond with so many different hats on, be constantly trained and ready to go, for me that seems to be the hardest challenge, just to be ready to go in an instant, and you don’t know what you’re going to be called to do.”
“If a person picks up to call, we respond.” Austenberg and Carlstorm started out as officer on the road. “I started (out on the road) in ’89, I did 16 years in the patrol division, eventually working up to Mark’s position, which is the assistant to the commander in control. When I got promoted to Lieutenant, I went into the detective bureau and did 5 years there, then went into support services and did 5 years there, and earlier this year came back to patrol.” He loves what he does. “Absolutely. When I first started years ago, the question you always get is, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 or 15 years?’ And for me it was always out there, on the street, writing tickets, answering calls, because for me that was the exciting part of the job. I was very fortunate to get promoted and given other opportunities.” Austenberg states that road officers are key to the MOPD. “You have more day-to-day interaction with the people, and that’s your most likely opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life.”
Carlstrom was a patrol officer for 16 ½ years and was promoted in 2014 to his current role. “I’ve been in the patrol division my whole career. I still live in the town, I have kids who graduated Mount Olive, I have kids that are still in Mount Olive, I have three boys, so to me there’s a lot of personal-ness to this job. People know who I am, and I’m all about the department. And here in our patrol division, these guys work 12-hour shifts, so they put in long days and they’re exhausted by the end of the day. It’s not easy to work a 12-hour shift. And as he (Austenberg) said we have smaller homes, apartments, to the very big extravagant homes. So, we have to know how to deal with different types of people.”
He then proudly states, “Our school system is probably the best in Morris County, I grew up in it and now I get to see it, and you’re proud to be here.”
A chief concern of the MOPD is the building of new homes in town, about 700, that would task the force with additional residents to watch over. “I think we’re always asked to be doing more with less,” says Austenberg. “When I first started 30 years ago, we had 42 people in the department, now I think we’re up to about 50. So, since I’ve been here, we’ve had so many more developments, the Trade Zone, both the industrial and commercial side, the Toys ‘R Us warehouse, all kinds of popped up developments, and the population has probably gone up maybe 10,000. So, we’re constantly doing more with less, and we’ve really done a push to expand our services, community outreach, and it’s a constant juggling act as to…you want to keep all the balls in the air at one time, and it’s hard to do. It’s a challenge, and obviously the more we can get resource-wise from the town, the more we can put out there.”
“They’re (the dispatchers) the eyes for us until we get on the scene”
Austenberg, like Cordileone and Beecher, discuss the criticality of communication between dispatch and patrol. “It’s very critical. They’re (the dispatchers) the eyes for us until we get on the scene. It’s like that game Telephone where someone’s calling, and they’re excited or emotional about some situation, and they’re relaying it to our dispatch, and they’re doing their best to decipher what’s going on, and they have to give that message to our guys (patrol), so it’s very critical for them to try and be as accurate as possible.”
Mount Olive Police Officers receive top notch training through the Morris County Police Academy.
Austenberg introduced the Pink Patch program to the MOPD three years ago. “It started in the Los Angeles area. I had gotten an email from our patch supplier, and there was a flier that mentioned the Pink Patch program out in California. That kind of piqued my curiosity because I’ve had family members who had breast cancer – some occasions more than once – and I said, ‘This is something I feel important to do,’ to show the support to people who are out there fighting with this disease, plus their families, and if we can make a few bucks, great, we’ll do that as well for them. So, we’ve been doing that for three years, I started with the patch, I did keychains the following year, then I did Christmas ornaments or holiday ornaments this year. I’m very proud of it.” He mentioned that the department also takes part in the Autism Patch, National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, and L.E.A.D. program
MOPD officers are very active in the community, and this rings extremely important not only to Austenberg, but also the rest of the force. “Absolutely. It’s all about relationships. We get support from the community because we respect them, and they respect us back in turn, and we form these relationships with them. Some of the communities out there in the country don’t have that, so if something comes in that’s going to be a questionable call, the public is going to say, ‘Wait a minute, we know these guys, let’s hear all the facts before we jump to conclusions. That usually helps you out quite a bit.”
There is a key to the trust placed in the MOPD. “We hire the best people. It starts with the hiring process. We’ll take the time to interview the people, we want the people to fit the community. A lot of departments are kind of forced due to budgetary reasons they’re going to hire somebody who has already been trained because it’s going to save them money. For us, we would rather pick somebody who has no training, give them that training even if it’s going to cost money, because that’s the person that we want down the road. I think that’s an important part of it; we hire so well that it’s a 30-year investment, and we put that as a priority for everything.”
Carlstrom adds, “Our testing process…there are sometimes we’ve had as many as 500 people come take the written test for what ultimately wind up being only one or two positions. It’s a long process, several months before they may or may not get hired.”
Attributes sought? “We try to find people of character,” says Austenberg. “You can always train the skill into the person, but you can’t change the character of the person. We do our best to try a pick somebody who’s going to be a character person, and like I said it’s a 30-year investment. We take it very seriously.”
A Challenge Coin of Core Values
“Along those lines,” says Carlstrom, “when one of our recruits graduates the academy, they are given a Challenge Coin from the Chief, and it has the Core Values of the department: professionalism , respect, accountability, courtesy, integrity, dignity . A lot of them carry it on duty, that coin, and they can pull it right out of their pocket to remind themselves that these are the core values of the police department of Mount Olive Township.”
Those abided-by and honorable Core Values are:
Professionalism: We are committed to the mission of the Mount Olive Police Department. We also realize that each of us is accountable for our actions and we conduct ourselves accordingly.
Respect: We will earn the trust, respect and support of the citizens through active partnership, involvement and service to the community we serve.
Courtesy: We provide service in a courteous, efficient, and accessible manner. We foster community and employee involvement through problem-solving partnerships. Recognizing and responding with sincerity to those in need of our services.
Integrity: We have committed ourselves to elevated standards of trust, responsibility and discipline while promoting justice in a fair and impartial manner.
Dignity: We treat all persons in a dignified manner and exhibit understanding of ethnic and cultural diversity both in our professional and personal endeavors. We guarantee to uphold the principles and values embodied in the Constitution of the United States and the State of New Jersey.
Accountability: We are proud of our profession and will ensure that our members are dedicated, highly trained and capable of handling the daily demands of the law enforcement profession. We promote a collaborative environment for sharing information, resources, assistance and expertise
On a bookshelf in Austenberg’s office are a number of videos which he points to. “Those videos, speaking of character, are from a program we used to do called Character First. It was a program where you try to stress the importance of character, on a day to day basis, with examples of what’s good character and what’s bad character.”
“It’s the most rewarding job you can have, but then there are days it can be the most difficult job to have”
In Austenberg’s opinion, law enforcement is a challenging job, but “It’s the most rewarding job you can have, but then there are days it can be the most difficult job to have.”
“Every day is different – there’s nothing typical,” adds Carlstrom.
Per Austenberg, he thinks thigs are different for the current regime of patrol officers with regard to policing drug abuse. “When I started, heroin was not a factor. We had pot and cocaine on occasion, but Heroin you did not really see here. Maybe a car was going on Route 80 and you stopped it. You might find it, but rarely. And now it’s probably a weekly occurrence where we’re coming across overdoses or arrests, either in Mount Olive or traveling through.”
“This year we’ve had five heroin overdose deaths,” says Carlstrom, sadly.
“If you were to ask me, I enjoyed the road, but I do prefer this type of work”
“I started in 1999, I spent a few years on the road,” says Lieutenant Luis Sanchez. “I was then moved into the detective bureau to do some narcotics work, I did some narcotics work for a while, I was placed on loan to the county where I did a few narcotics wires, I came back and finished out the year in 2004 on the road – so I roughly spent about four years on the road – and then I came back into the investigation division in 2005, I was in here as a detective from 2005 to 2012, where I got promoted to Detective Sergeant in 2012 to 2017, and in 2017 got promoted to Detective Lieutenant (of Investigations) in 2017. If you were to do the math, roughly 16 out of 20 years I’ve been in here.”
The Investigations Division consists of two Sergeants and four Detectives. When Sanchez joined the division in 2005, it had seven Detectives, one more than current. “Each Detective is also responsible for an “On-call” week. During this week they are responsible 24 hours a day for any investigations that may arise,” says Sanchez. He also adds, “The Detectives often leave work and make it to their homes, to be called right back to work. They get called out all hours of the night to help assist patrol. It is a demanding aspect of being an investigator.”
“Our detectives have received specialized training in many aspects of investigations. When I started, you were considered a narcotics Detective or a j.v Detective. Now our Detectives have to be highly trained in all aspects”.
Sanchez has developed many skills best used in his position, which he enjoys, but he recognizes that being out on the road is a hard job. “It is a very difficult job, you have to react quickly, you go from one call to the next call to the next call. Here, it takes time. Sometimes investigations last 90 days, 180 days, so I’ve developed a lot of skills that are best used in here. If you were to ask me, I enjoyed the road, but I do prefer this type of work.”
Sanchez states his role as Lieutenant is very different from a detective. “A typical day as far as a detective is concerned is, they come in and have certain responsibilities they have to take care of, as far as reviewing reports from the weekend. Seeing if there is anything that’s been missed or needs immediate follow-up, they have some internal things that we do, we take care of evidence, we take care of found property, seized property, we have a med return kit in the front that we have to check and see if it has to be emptied, so they have those responsibilities that they need to check daily before they get their day started, then they come in and look at whatever cases they have going on, which can range from car burglaries, home burglaries, sex assaults, narcotics, so they have a vast array of things that they constantly need to be looking into. Requesting subpoenas, court orders, canvassing neighborhoods and talking to people, conducting interviews – so their days are full. As you can see there’s no one in the office, they’re out working, following up on things, but they cover a vast array of cases.”
Per Sanchez, drugs are the number one crime that the MOPD deals with. “Two different things. So, our biggest thing, the thing that we encounter the most, unfortunately, is narcotics and narcotics related crimes. What I mean by that is not just the possession of narcotics, but crimes that are fueled in order to buy narcotics, or re fueled in the course of consuming narcotics. So, if you look at the types of crimes that we cover, more often than not are car burglaries, stolen cars, theft of items inside of a car, burglaries of residences, narcotics sales, accidents involving consumption of narcotics, we have to follow that is it’s a fatal accident, and a lot of overdoses. The hurdles we have now is just that everybody has so many more social media accounts, and so many more devices that they use, it’s just more information that’s out there that we have to request more information from. Where before I could sit across from you and ask a couple questions or request a court order to your bank, to your credit card, and get everything I could about you, now I have so many more companies that own these social media sites that in order to gather my intelligence and my information is just so much more paperwork for us to do.”
“…we’re educating people”
Sanchez, who grew up in Warren County and is a Centenary University graduate, states that the MOPD is vigilant in combating drugs. “We put on a program called Hidden in Plain Sight, with a company called Prevention is Key out of Sussex and Morris County. I brought the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, us at a local level, people at the county level, and we went and put on a presentation for parents and educators at the high school as to what to look for – the title of Hidden in Plain Sight — and we staged a room a normal child’s room, and told parents what to look for in your child’s room. So, part of that is education, which I think we’ve always done in different manners. It used to be DARE, now its L.E.A.D., but we put on that types of program , so we’re educating people.” The MOPD also offers a program where individuals can come into police headquarters and dispose of illegal controlled substances, no questions asked. “You can come into our station, drop your syringes, your drugs into the box that’s out front. So, we’re trying to put more programs out there for education and turning things in, and then on the back end, obviously it’s always a struggle to try and do the enforcement because there’s never enough officers and never enough time. You start working on a narcotics case and then you get pulled for a burglary, you get pulled for a sex assault, or you get pulled for another reason. So, that is the challenge there, being able to have enough people to investigate the back end. I think that we’re doing well here and what we work hard on is putting out those programs. We have L.E.A.D. in schools, the med return kit, we’re always working on Prevention is Key and the county to try and put on programs like that.”
Sanchez, who is Spanish, is a translator for the MOPD, which is key. “A good portion of Mount Olive is of Hispanic descent, meaning from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, there’s people from Argentina, Uruguay, so, there’s a good mix of people who speak the Spanish language here. I don’t think I’d be here at this point in my career, in this title or in this position, if it wasn’t for that. I was the first Spanish speaking officer hired in the department. I’m told now that that was a big, big selling point. At that time, there was only maybe one or two officers in Morris County that actually could speak more than one language, and I was one of them, and I was the first here in Mount Olive. Very early on in my career I was very fortunate that then-Chief Mark Spitzer, and previous to him Chief Cotona, recognized that, and they loaned me out to certain towns in Morris County. I worked in Dover in homicide early in my career, also in Hackettstown, Roxbury, so I’ve gotten to work with a lot of agencies which has given me a chance to see a lot of different things, just by virtues of being able to speak and write two different languages.”
“I have learned a great deal from him over the years in what I consider a mentor/protégé relationship”
Captain Mike Spitzer is in his 25th year of service to Mount Olive Township. “I was hired on August 3, 1994, graduated the Morris County Police Academy on December 9, 1994, was promoted to Sergeant on November 13, 2001, transferred as a Sergeant into the Communications & Records Division in September 2006, was assigned as the departments 1st Accreditation Manager in December 2010, was promoted to Lieutenant (Communications & Records Division Commander) on September 1, 2011 and was promoted to Captain (Operations Commander) on August 29, 2016.”
Spitzer and Beecher have known each other since day one. Beecher, in fact, was involved with the selection process Spitzer hired from and was one of his FTO’s (Field Training Officers). “I trained with him for over a month and another officer (Lt. Austenberg) for 2 months after I graduated the Morris County Police Academy in 1994. I have also worked with and for Chief Beecher my entire career. He has been my direct supervisor as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and as a Chief. I have learned a great deal from him over the years in what I consider a mentor/protégé relationship. I feel like the chief and I work well together. I believe we know each other very well which helps us understand each other’s style, personality and communication nature. Steve affords me a great deal of autonomy to do my job, which I appreciate a great deal and respect that he seeks my input and opinion on important department matters as well.
According to Spitzer, the Captain is the Operations Commander and tasked with many responsibilities. “I am heavily involved in the department’s budgeting, purchasing, payroll, scheduling, human resources, accreditation, policy, discipline, recruitment and selection, training, professional development among many other functions.” He was also the department’s first Accreditation manager in 2013. “The certification in 2013 was very difficult and required a great deal of work from many but was an extremely rewarding assignment for me. I learned a great deal during the process and I was very proud to be a part of it. I continue to support our accreditation efforts and am a strong advocate for the accreditation program (NJSACOP LEAP).”
“…our people are our greatest resource and have done an excellent job developing relationships within our community…”
Spitzer says that the MOPD, and the Township of Mount Olive, are special places to work. “I believe we have worked very hard to recruit and hire the best, most qualified, professional and ethical people (sworn and civilian personnel) here at the Mount Olive Township Police Department. We believe if we hire the right people everything else will fall into place. With that said, our people are our greatest resource and have done an excellent job developing relationships within our community for many years. Chief Beecher has made it a priority that we participate in Community Outreach programs and events such as National Night Out, Coffee with A Cop, Keeping Seniors Safe, L.E.A.D., The Positive Ticket Program, Officer Phil, Operation Chill, CARES, etc. The interactions our personnel have experienced, and the conversations and relationships developed through these engagements has been awesome. I believe MOPD is a special place because we have developed great relationships with our residents, co-workers, and governing body and because we hire great people.”
Captain Spitzer is preparing, as is the rest of the Mount Olive Police Department, to celebrate a very special anniversary. “2019 is the 90th Anniversary of the Mount Olive Township Police Department. We plan to celebrate the milestone in a special way to be announced later. I am very proud to be a member of the MOPD Family and very grateful to work with so many great people currently and in years past.”