John Paton will step down at the end of this month after 32 years with the Chatham Township Police Department, four of them as chief.
No replacement for Paton has been announced yet, but plans are in place for a decision to be made and a chief to take over soon. Eligible personnel include lieutenants and sergeants.
"There won't be any lapse in service," he said. "In a department like this, nothing happens alone."
A source of pride and regret for Paton is the community policing initiative, which he unveiled to the Chatham Township Committee after the destruction caused by Hurricane Irene and the late October 2011 snowstorm.
"That was something I always wanted to do, and my one regret is that it hasn't come to fruition," he said. "Community-oriented policing, I think, is really the way to go in a town like this."
The project is still in its beginning stages. "It will take time for both the community and the police department to get used to," Paton said, but once it reaches its full strength, "the relationships that we build there can only be of help to both parties."
Paton also introduced Nixle to the township as a way for officials to keep residents informed about emergencies, from fallen wires to major storms. "The day before Sandy, we had about 2,000 subscribers," he said. "Now we have 3,562 people."
However, Paton said thinks the department will begin to utilize Everbridge, which is provided free of cost to municipalities by Morris County.
"Everbridge allows you to call landlines, email, text messages," Paton said. "The nice thing about Everbridge is it's persistent, so if you don't get an answer it keeps trying until it does."
Besides its persistence, Everbridge also allows residents to receive alerts based on specific neighborhoods: maybe within a half-mile or mile of a precise address, or maybe within the zones created by the community policing initiative.
"I think it just has to grow. As time goes by, the officers are getting more involved in the particular districts they're associated with," Paton said. "I think in a little more time, you give people a chance to get used to it, it'll be a real asset to this town, especially in responding to emergencies like the hurricane."
The Chatham Township Committee next meets on Thursday, Jan. 31, when a replacement for Paton may be announced.