It was standing room only at the Township Council meeting on February 21. No, it was not because of a hot topic on the agenda. Nor was it due to an expected vote on a controversial issue.

Instead, the packed audience represented an outpouring of pride and appreciation for Jefferson’s finest and bravest, both incoming and retiring. Family and friends gathered in the council chambers to applaud the installation of three new firefighters and one new police officer, and the promotion of a member of the police department.

And, in an enormous demonstration of appreciation witnessed by The Jefferson Chronicle, the entire Jefferson Township police department turned out to bid farewell to two retiring officers, Sgt. Joe Johnson and Det. Rich Geib. Officers stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a line behind the seated council members that stretched across the chamber in a show of solidarity.

Jefferson Township's finest stand shoulder-to-shoulder to honor fellow officers' retirements, promotions, and oaths of office. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

First to be installed as firefighters, to township Fire Company No. 1, were Anthony M. Campana and Robert Franco. With their families in attendance, they were sworn in by Mayor Russell Felter and presented with badges by Debi Merz, council president. Felter also gave the oath of office to new firefighter Christopher Zapata, who is joining the township’s Fire Company No. 2.

Editor's Note: Photos of the above inductions can be found at the bottom of this story.

More Than 50 Years of Service

Sgt. Johnson retires from the Jefferson police force following more than two decades of service. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

In acknowledging the retirement of two veteran police officers – Sgt. Joe Johnson and Det. Rich Geib – Police Chief William “Bill” Craig noted the township will be losing more than 50 years of law enforcement experience. Johnson served the township for 29 years and Geib for 26 years.

Hired in 1988, Johnson holds certifications for firearms instructor and drug recognition expert, among others. He was named Officer of the Year in 1993. Johnson’s son, Matthew, a former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, is currently in the police department, following in his father’s footsteps.

Sgt. Joe Johnson's family surrounds him as Mayor Felter expresses the township's appreciation for his years of service. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

Geib, Chief Craig noted, has been highly regarded as a mentor in the department. He added that throughout his career, Geib received many commendations, particularly for drug and DWI enforcement, and was promoted to detective in 2009.

Chief William Craig. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

The chief and each council member thanked the two retirees individually with words of praise and admiration. Each also wished the men well in their retirements.

While the department has lost two experienced officers, a new one was added to the force. Robert Coyle, an experienced officer who previously served in Randolph, New Jersey, was sworn in as a patrolman and welcomed to the township force by Chief Craig and council members. The new patrolman lives in Jefferson with his wife and young daughter.

The newest member of Jefferson's finest, Robert Coyle, formerly with the Randolph, NJ, police force. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

At the same time, a current department member, Justin Gjelsvik, was promoted to sergeant. A former corrections officer, he is a graduate of County College of Morris.

New sergeant, Justin Gjelsvik. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

Upgrades Requested

While personnel changes are under way within the township police force, structural changes are on tap for the department in the near future.

Chief Craig presented the council with the final total for an addition to the outdated police headquarters: $750,000. Plans for the addition were presented to the council last December (see Headquarters Facelift for Township’s Police Department, December 13, 2017).

The chief also requested capital for weapons and ammunition, $5,000; upgraded alcohol testing equipment that is required, $20,000; community programs, $10,000; new sensory technology, $35,000; and other smaller items.

In addition to upgrades necessary to comply with current regulations, the chief noted that some of the department’s equipment is simply worn out and less expensive to replace than repair. The force’s two bicycles used to “patrol” community events, for example, are 15 years old, and the patrol car sirens are 35 years old.

Capital expenditures other than for the police department were also discussed, including for recreation and road repair.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting date is March 7 at 7:00 p.m. Official minutes are usually posted on the township website approximately two to three weeks following each meeting.

More photos:

Click or tap photos to enlarge and read captions.

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at maria.weiskott@thejeffersonchronicle.com.

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