A Final Message to Lacey Township from Chief David A. Paprota, Ed.D.
On April 26, 2016, I released a statement announcing my retirement. My last workday was Friday, July 8th, 2016. I have included an updated version of that statement as my final message to Lacey Township as the Chief of Police. Thanks for all of your support and assistance through the years!
With 27 years overall in law enforcement, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the last 4 years of my career serving as the Chief of Police of the Lacey Township Police Department. Serving as the O.I.C. then Chief of Police since December 1, 2012, has truly been an honor and a privilege. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the Lacey Township Police Department and the Lacey Township as a whole. My retirement marks the end of my tenure in law enforcement and the beginning of the next chapter in my life. I am confident that, with continuing community support moving forward, the police department and Lacey Township will continue to progress to all new heights.
Over the past 4 years, I have been privileged to oversee a transition and cultural change in the police department which has translated to very noticeable exceptional and consistent performance in the field. I was fortunate to oversee a significant turnover of personnel within the department which allowed for the recruitment and hiring of exceptional new personnel. With the attrition of 17 officers and several civilian positions, I was able to bring in 12 new officers to the department. The current staffing of the police department is well represented with a majority of the department members now possessing four-year degrees. Furthermore, department members have earned various advanced degrees, including a doctorate, 2 post-master’s graduate degrees, and 9 master’s degrees across the ranks. The Lacey Township Police Department also possesses recognized experts in several fields of specialization while functioning with minimal staffing comparative to other police agencies. The individual accomplishments of the staff are a testament to their professionalism and commitment to excellence.
With the tremendous support and engagement of the community, we as a township have seen the crime rate drop significantly. The township has experienced a 64% drop in residential and commercial burglaries from a high of 119 in 2012, down to an annual low of 43 in 2015. Likewise, the township has experienced a 51% drop in thefts from a high of 684 reported thefts in 2010, down to a low of 334 in 2015. These numbers come together with other offenses specified by the FBI to form our “crime index.” The other offenses (e.g., murder, rape, robbery, etc.) occur with such low frequency that they do not significantly impact our crime index from year to year. Simply stated, burglaries and thefts are the most prominent offenses that directly impact residents in a municipality like Lacey Township. The crime index for Lacey Township peaked at its worst in recorded history in 2010 at 31.1 indicating there were 31.1 Part 1 offenses reported per 1,000 residents. Once published by the FBI, the 2015 crime index for Lacey Township will be below 16.0 which is indicative of the significant drop in burglaries and thefts experienced during 2013, 2014, and 2015. This positive trend is currently continuing thus far in 2016.
The drop in crime is attributable to numerous factors with no single factor being totally responsible. The officers of the Lacey Township Police Department have engaged in an “All in” approach throughout both the uniformed patrol division and the detective bureau. The primary focus has been on drug interdiction and individual accountability. During this period wherein victimization in Lacey Township has dropped by as much as 64%, the proactive arrests made by officers have nearly tripled. The crime statistics collected and reported by the FBI and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) as Part 1 offenses are based on reported crimes and do not reflect the collective proactive efforts of each police department. Another important statistic to consider is the number of arrests in a year. The staff of the police department, since 2013, has increased their proactive efforts resulting in over 900 arrests in 2015 alone. This is up from the norms of the years prior to 2013 when arrests tended to be below 300 per year. The increase in arrests is directly attributable to a philosophy of accountability based on the premise that if someone enters Lacey Township and commits a crime, he or she will be arrested and charged. Warrant checks and immediate on-scene as well as follow-up investigations by patrol officers have proven to be a critical component and genesis for most of the arrests. The officers have found this to be a very effective approach in decreasing the likelihood that the individual will attempt similar acts in Lacey Township in the future.
Many of the proactive measures taken have come as a result of an engaged community providing detailed information for officers to act upon. I am very proud of the development and implementation of the police department website (www.LaceyPD.org) and social media accounts which were initiated during my first months as Chief of Police. The website and social media accounts have served as the vital platform for promoting community awareness, maintaining transparency, and eliciting community engagement toward the betterment of Lacey Township. The level of community engagement I was fortunate to experience over the past 4 years will continue to be necessary moving forward for progress in the future to be possible.
It is also important to note that as the nation struggles and is finally openly recognizing the Heroin epidemic, Lacey Township has been well ahead of others in addressing the problem. Lacey Township has one of the youngest demographic compositions of the municipalities in Ocean County. Being a “young” town and squarely fitting within the demographic of concern for opioid abuse, Lacey Township has been forced to face many of the same challenges as the rest of the nation. Over the past 4 years, Ocean County as a whole has experienced an increase in drug overdose deaths at a rate 3 times the deaths experienced countywide in 2011. Notably, this increase countywide has occurred while Lacey Township has experienced a decrease in overdose deaths during the same period.
Heroin is a problem that will continue to plague this country for years to come, as the nation is being flooded with the fatal drug from across our borders. Furthermore, Fentanyl, a much stronger synthetic form of the drug, is becoming more prevalent and will likely exacerbate the issue on a national level in the months and years to come. Most notable for Lacey Township is that the township has experienced a more than 20% decrease in overdoses since 2012 and a 30% reduction in deaths related to overdoses since 2012. As stated, this reduction has occurred during a time that the remainder of the county (as well as the state and the nation) has experienced significant increases since 2012. While any overdoses or deaths related to overdoses are too many, it is important to recognize that some strides are being made overall to deal with the problem locally. The members of the Lacey Township Police Department recognize that drug interdiction is at the core of dealing with the issue. The officers have demonstrated their commitment to proactively enforcing the laws related to drug distribution and possession.
The “All in” approach used within the police department extended well beyond enforcement efforts. I am most proud of my formation of the Lacey Municipal Police Foundation which has served as a valuable entity in facilitating community programs with the youth of Lacey. The foundation allowed for special volunteer events involving officers from the police department interacting with the community, and most importantly, the youth in a very positive environment. To name a few, representatives from the police department and I, in direct cooperation with Lacey PBA Local #238, participated in the Red Night Out presentations, Social Media Awareness presentations, a Middle School Speedball tournament, the 2013 and 2016 Cops Collectible Card programs, the 2014 and 2016 Meet-the-Officer Day events, the annual Prom Breakfasts, presence at the annual Applefest, parade details, co-sponsoring the 2015 and 2016 fireworks displays, and more. As a non-profit organization, the foundation has allowed for the use of private funds to support the participation of the police department staff in the aforementioned programs that would otherwise not be possible under the very limited municipal operating budget provided to the police department. The police department also collected and ensured the proper destruction of over 2,000 pounds of medication since February of 2013 when we installed a medicine drop box in the lobby of police headquarters for the convenience of residents. Every effort, in combination, has clearly made a positive difference in our community.
The Lacey Township Police Department was the first municipal police department in New Jersey to implement an EpiPen program wherein patrol officers who are certified EMTs carry both pediatric and adult prescription epinephrine auto-injectors within their patrol vehicles. The development of the program and the implementation of formal training and policy was a considerable and time-consuming task. As Chief, I was committed to implementing the EpiPen program after witnessing the efficacy of the Naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray program which we implemented two years prior. The Lacey Township Police Department currently has 17 active officers who are certified EMTs who are authorized to administer the Epinephrine in the event a person experiences a potentially deadly allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and is in need of critical care. Both the Naloxone nasal spray and the Epinephrine auto-injectors have proven to truly be lifesaving devices. Since the inception of the EpiPen program within the Lacey Township Police Department, the statewide program has now been expanded to police departments which will hopefully lead to more agencies carrying the lifesaving devices.
As Chief of Police in 2015, I was privileged to have the very unique opportunity to serve as the incident commander during a full FEMA graded exercise involving a staged terrorist attack on the nuclear power plant. I was truly honored to serve as the incident commander from the inception of the event while my staff fulfilled critical assignments within the emergency management structure as well as tactical police operations. I am grateful for the tremendous and unique opportunity to work directly with the FBI, NJSP, and a dozen other agencies to ensure the highest level of preparedness in the event of a high-level critical incident in the future. All staff benefited from the extensive planning process as well as the actual exercise.
Upon being designated the Emergency Management Coordinator for Lacey Township and bestowed that additional responsibility, I took the opportunity to create a structured organization which now includes twelve dedicated volunteers and staff members each having specific assignments and functions in an emergency event. Likewise, we worked as a team in revising the Emergency Operations Plan for Lacey Township. The Lacey Township Office of Emergency Management now also has several high-water evacuation vehicles available which were acquired through the federal military surplus program (1033 – LESO) over the past year. Due to my retirement from the police department, I was also required to relinquish the Emergency Management Coordinator position. I have done so feeling confident that the team is fully prepared to coordinate an effective response to any critical incident in Lacey Township.
I sincerely thank everyone in the community for their support during my career. My future efforts will be directed toward utilizing my formal education and 27 years of experience in law enforcement to conduct formal training under the company name Critical Concepts & Strategies, LLC (www.ccstest.com). My training will focus on preparing aspiring candidates for the entry-level law enforcement exam as well as conducting advanced in-service training programs for active law enforcement officers. I am truly grateful for the tremendous experience and knowledge I have gained through the years. I will miss serving the residents of Lacey Township as a member of such a professional and community-oriented police organization. I also look forward to volunteering and continuing to be active in the community as the founder and president of the Lacey Municipal Police Foundation and a member (retired) of Lacey PBA Local #238.
– Chief David A. Paprota, Ed.D.