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After 32 Years, Township Police Chief Retires

John Paton's last day with the Chatham Township Police Department will be Thursday, Jan. 31.

It might be hard for some residents of Chatham Township to remember a time when John Paton was not an employee of the police department.

"I started as a dispatcher 32 years ago, the first civilian dispatcher," Paton, 56, said. From there he became a patrolman, a detective, a sergeant and finally, in March 2009, the chief of the department.

He retires just shy of four years as chief, which he regards as perfect timing. "Three to five years [as chief] is a good term to do things. Shorter than that you can't get anything done, longer than that you may become stagnant," he said.

In Paton's time with the department, he served under five police chiefs. When he took over the role, he had plans to improve organization and work flow. "It's weird, because I like to be organized here but I'm not like this at home. I think that's just the nature of the job, though," he said. "As chief there's so much going on, and you have your hands in so many things, that if you're not organized things fall through the cracks."

Sometimes, if someone came in to complain about the changes Paton made, he said he would point to a framed poster on his wall of men running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The caption reads, "Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid."

The poster is indicative of Paton's dry sense of humor, which those who have gotten to know him over the years will recognize. There is one other aspect of Paton's personality which also stands out.

"I still enjoy coming to work, I love my job," he said. "But," he reluctantly admits, "I have been here for 32 years and it's time to do something different."

That something different may not look very different. With most of his family, including his three children, in the area, Paton and his wife have plans to travel but not to remove themselves from northern New Jersey.

"I'm staying on as the coordinator of Emergency Management for at least a few months, probably not through the end of the year, but enough to find and train someone," Paton said. "I'm still going to have my hand in things here."

Check back with Chatham Patch Thursday for more on John Paton's retirement from the Chatham Township Police Department.

JustSayin' January 16, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Good luck to the outgoing chief and thank you for your service. With the Chief leaving, this is a perfect time to consider radical change in the interests of the taxpayer. Big Governement is present in the Chatham's. Why do we need two Police Chiefs to supervise a total of 40 employees in a population of 20,000 people ? Will that ever make sense ? NO !!!! Merging the departments is a difficult, legal, and long term process, but it never will take place unless Government Leaders force it upon the departments. They already merged dispatchers and the court system. For now, at minimum, they at least should begin the process of merging department leadership. Instead of replacing the Township Chief, make the Borough Chief the Regional Chief. IT CAN BE DONE WITH EASE AND ORDINANCE. Give him a decent raise and the Township will still probably save $100,000 in Salary. As far as long term, they are two different towns. Merger in the long term needs to take place. Make them one department, call them the Chatham Police, and let the old Township Officers patrol the Township to keep familiarity among the citizens until eventually the citizens find comfort in the merger. After that, it is time to merge PUBLIC WORKS between the two towns.
JustSayin' January 16, 2013 at 11:47 PM
I want to emphasize that LAYOFFS are not the right approach to merger and it is unfair to men and women who do the jobs that they do. As people retire, do not replace where possible. As Christie says, NJ needs to learn how to do more with less. I agree in many cases.
John January 17, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Too late...they have already started interviewing for new chief. The chathams will never merge. They would never even agree on train station parking much less any real issues. Not to mention the Boris finances are a disaster and two hasn't raised municipal tax in three years...just sayin! Sharing a name doesn't mean much in the end.
JustSayin' January 17, 2013 at 04:42 AM
Good points but I am not suggesting the governments merge, just the police. Your so right about the train parking.
chakamojo January 18, 2013 at 01:59 PM
when people ask you where you live, I am sure your reply is "Chatham". No one says "Chatham Borough" or "Chatham Township". The towns need to merge. the school system is already done and that is the hardest part. As far as the train station parking is concerned, it is total lunacy that our children are schooled together yet Chatham Township parents are not allowed to park at the Chatham Train Station (of which most the property is owned by NJ Transit, anyway). Hey - we only have one Chatham Patch - - why do we need two Chathams? Wouldn't you all like a decrease in your property taxes??????
chakamojo January 18, 2013 at 02:01 PM
your $100,000 a year savings is too low. I'm sure with benefits and pension this measure would save $250,000 a year
John January 18, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Well even if it saved a million dollars a year (not gonna happen) you are still talking about a $15,000 tax bill going down to about $14,600! That's not nearly enough for me to give up having my own police department and the personal service that goes with it! At least if I'm paying a lot for my taxes I want something for it and that's the feeling for most people. This is not a nickle and dime town. Let the struggling towns merge if they have to! Chatham Boro and Madison come to mind!
chakamojo January 18, 2013 at 06:36 PM
John - Its not just the Police Department. Its about savings in all municipal services. Maybe you don't care about saving money, but I think most people do. A full analysis should be done by an independent firm (not the borough or the township as they would both say there is no savings n order to preserve pork jobs) to see what the real savings would be. What if you saved $2,000 a year? Over 10 years that is $20,000. I'm sure that is worth having one police department and quite frankly, having one police department would not diminish the safety of the towns. Are you still outraged that the Chatham libraries merged in 1974?
John January 18, 2013 at 07:16 PM
No, but a librarian is not the first person at my door if my wife has a heart attack! I'm not against saving money in areas but I think having your own local police force in a town as nice as Chatham is invaluable and appreciated greatly by everyone here. I think if it ever went to a vote you would see that. Maybe we will someday.
Livefullhappylife January 19, 2013 at 03:41 AM
I do not think that merging is going to delay help. Scare tactics are not fair. Merging the police does not mean radar traps on Noe Ave are going to stop. Patrolling streets are going to continue. Merging the departments is a great idea but I agree with John too. DO NOT MERGE government because Township Taxes will change. Merge the police only because it has proven to work in EMS, Court system, the schools, and the library without changing Township taxes.
Livefullhappylife January 19, 2013 at 03:50 AM
I agree that merging both road departments is right too. Think about the value of sharing expensive equipment too. People always resist change because of bias. WE NEED OBJECTIVE LEADERS.
chakamojo January 19, 2013 at 01:58 PM
So if so many departments are already merged, and most importantly, Township and Borough taxes are co-mingled for the universal school system, when are we going to get rid of the outdated notion that only Borough residents have he right to park at the train station??! I looked at the Borough's finances online, and quite frankly, John is correct - they are not good. 15% of the Borough budget goes to servicing their debt (compared to 5% for the Township). The parking rates should be increased and opened to the Township in order to help pay down the excessive Borough debt. Fair is fair.
John January 19, 2013 at 02:43 PM
It sure could delay help! Im toward the end of town. I can see all the patrol officers getting bored in th township hanging all the way down on main street or worse yet the highway because they can find more to do there. Then a call at my house comes and it's 10 minutes more response time than it used to be! Don't kid yourself...thats exactly what would happen!
John January 19, 2013 at 02:48 PM
The bottom lines is that most of my property tax dollars leave town and head to Trenton for a lot of stuff that I see no benefit from. So one of the few areas I actually get what I pay for are things like having my own police and Dpw. That is not where I want to save a few bucks!!! How bout they change the school funding formula....then you will see the thousands in savings we want to see!
A Buck and a Duck! January 20, 2013 at 09:07 PM
No, the school system was enough. Move somewhere else and change the town.
thomas jackson January 29, 2013 at 07:10 PM
thomas jackson January 29, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Why worry about a merger you are saving money by having this chief retire if I didn't see the police car in his driveway for hours at a time and sometimes he had it behind a closed garage door only to open it and take off with the lights going. Come on neighbors I am sure you all saw what I did. I always wondered what this guy did. His name was never on the paper and he always had the police car at home. One day I got annoyed and called the Madison court to see how many tickets this guy wrote. I was amazed to find he didn't write one ticket in 10 years a third of his career so what did he do besides talk about getting organized. Oh his cop in every neighborhood I don't know mine but it must be him because he is always home. Why did he divide his program up by voting districts it makes it all a political thing not a police community finally I have to ask why are you paying this guy to stay on as emergency manager when he took off on his vacation the day before sandy. He had to get out before the storm hit and everyone knew it was bad so why did the only guy trained in this kind of stuff go away and leave the town hanging. It was just like some of the police on new Orleans but they lost their jobs and some faced criminal charges.
thomas jackson January 29, 2013 at 08:11 PM
To all that care I heard of a secret meeting this week to pick a new chief. If you care and want better then call the mayor and make sure they look deeper than a friend of or I liked his tie because there are 2 great choices and I personally had interaction with the other two that was very negative. When I saw a cop named Peterson he said each time both had tons of complaints. I only say this because this person they pick needs to be able to deal with the public and work hard and get the other cops to want to work hard to. Chatham twp dropped from the lowest crime rate under that female chief to about the middle under Paton I want to feel safe in my Home so tell the mayor what you think. Yes lots of us in the twp follow the police we want to know what you are doing.
Senseofitall January 30, 2013 at 06:17 PM
"Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid." How true is that ? Very true. I think that quote should be put in every public government building in America, starting with Chatham Township.
TroutSandwich February 02, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Good Riddance ! Anybody who shortly after promotion orders a Brand New loaded Ford Edge for himself when road officers are stuck with a deteriorating fleet of radio cars is and was a mistake for the department. Hey Mayor, what were you thinking ?
Chatham Resident Too February 11, 2013 at 01:38 AM
What personal services are you getting from the Police in the Township ? I've been here 19 yrs and I don't even notice them.
Chatham Resident Too February 11, 2013 at 01:43 AM
That's not true either John. Over 60% of your taxes go to the joint school system. Sounds like you're elderly and don't understand that suburbia is for families raising kids, like it or not. The elderly always bitch about the school system because they dont have kids in school. Good schools make your home more valuable - no matter which end of town your in.


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