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Community Policing Ultimate Goal for Departing Chief

Initiative not coming to fruition 'one regret' for John Paton, who's retiring after 32 years with Chatham Township.

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.

chakamojo January 18, 2013 at 06:16 PM
i remember the dark days before Paton: drive by shootings were a nightly occurrence on Fairmount Road, crack houses lined Southern Boulevard, the murder rate was out of control, and business owners at the Hickory Tree Shopping center were routinely shaken down by organized crime. Paton's "no nonsense" tactics have helped clean up this town. Now if we can only stop kids from toilet papering trees at Halloween and stop soccer moms from driving 28 MPH in 25 MPH zones we will finally have a decent town we can raise a family in. : )
Andrew January 18, 2013 at 11:53 PM
This is what I do in my community in Florida it would be an honor to do the same here- Andrew
David C. Couper January 19, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Community policing. Something worth doing and sustaining. For more, follow my blog at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com. And remember: policing in a democracy is best accomplished by those who are well-trained and led, controlled in their use of force, honest, courteous to every person, and closely in touch with the communities they serve.
Chatham Resident Too January 19, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Of course, Nixie doesn't really do much when the police don't update it, like this past disaster. And are just mouthpieces for JCP&L's lies. Also, to me, the one glaring thing about living in Chatham is the police departments COMPLETE LACK of community involvement. Not even a cop walking the beat in downtown Chatham or at Shop-Rite. I think community policing is fine, if you are connected in anyway with the community you serve. But I don’t feel we are. Do they sponsor community events so they can shake a few hands ? Does there new phone system have to be so off-putting ? You can talk all the rhetoric you want. But seriously, after 20 yrs living in the Township, I don't know any of the police, and have NO avenues to do so. Things were vastly different in my town growing up. The police were part of the community they served, and kids were more afraid of the law back then. They knew the police and were afraid to have to face them. But that doesn’t hold true when you are disconnected, and the police don’t seem to care. Try getting out in the community. Try getting out of your car besides traffic stops. Try waving or saying hello to a homeowner you see outside. It takes two seconds, and makes a world of difference. I for one would love to know our police force. And if I did, I’d be all for helping them police the town or contribute to the PBA annually. But I’m given no reason to do either
casandralabra January 20, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Wow Chatham Resident too, did you get a ticket or something ? There are many in town who will disagree with you. I SEE THE OFFICERS OFTEN OUT OF THEIR CARS. It is common to see them at a coffee shop, when on traffic directing assignments for $50 an hour, or when they are standing in the road next to their car looking for inspection sticker violations, as you are traveling 40 mph past them at which time they travel 75 mph to stop you. That is what they did to me but it was a new car so no ticket. But just because you may not see them, does not mean they are worthless. They respond quickly when you call and most are friendly, especially some of the veteran officers. I think part of the problems with community policing is that they are from other communities. Years back, they all were from town and you would see them on their off time in the old A&P, Haslers Pharmacy, and for some, the liquor store. You would see some of them shaking hands too at the fifty yard line and I am not talking outdoors. The Fifty Yard Line (Bar) is now Charlie Browns. But to have to design a community policing program in the first place is sad because that should be a fundamental of being a police officer. I suppose it is even worse when you are in charge and cannot make it happen either. But despite it all, they are there when we need them. That truly is what matters most.
Chatham Resident Too January 20, 2013 at 03:31 PM
I have had positive experiences with the police in Chatham as well. Nothing is all bad. But take a look at the group photo for Chatham Twp. on their website. There are over 20 police in this town ! That is ridiculous in these cost saving times. Yet when I asked them several years ago to show a presence at schools in the morning, I was told by the dispatcher that they are "very busy". Just saying, with a large, EXPENSIVE police force, shouldn't we expect more ? Why don't they use community policing ? Because none of them want to get out of their cozy cars to do it. And they'd love us to do their job for them. Did you know that an officer in Madsion quit and sued the dept. because he was actually assigned to walk the beat in downtown Madison and he saw it as a punishment ? A punishment ! I'll tell you what. Give me a fat paycheck with union benefits and I'll walk downtown Madison all day. : ) P.S. how many of our police could you pick out of a lineup ?
casandralabra January 20, 2013 at 04:58 PM
I don't think you can evaluate labor numbers from your cozy couch. The reality is according to Mayor Hagnor the number of municipal employees is down through attrition. I do not think there is much fat left to trim and quite frankly it is a big area to patrol. My taxes have been flat too. Not many towns can say that. But I think the issues comes down to perception. You want to see more positive to justify you interpretation of their value. I do think they can make some changes and should. But again, they respond fast and are there when you need them. If they could pretend to be residents in their mind, I think it would give them a different perspective and better understand what we want from them.
John January 20, 2013 at 05:54 PM
I think a couple of you people need to get out more yourselves! I run into the cops all over town and sometimes I can't believe how friendly they are. We are spoiled here and should be thankful. All of my neighbors love the local force and think they do a fantastic job. You say 20 is a lot? They work all day everyday so there are probably only a couple on the road at a time. This town is large...they can't be everywhere! I certainly don't want them sitting at the schools instead of patrolling the roads!
casandralabra January 20, 2013 at 08:19 PM
I agree John. Twenty officers is not outrageous if you consider a 24/7 cycle. I think that what Chatham Resident too is focusing on costs but trying to sell it as a manpower problem. As I said before, I don't think there is much fat that you can trim without a big effect on services.

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