Sheriff Cites Early Benefits of Park Police Merger
Published on January 14, 2022
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon reported that the merger of Park Police officers into his office already has resulted in efficiencies and benefits, as he updated the Morris County Board of County Commissioners earlier this week.
“We’ve had various police chiefs contact us already and the Office of Emergency Management,” said the Sheriff. “We’re going to be successful in this venture because we have the support of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Secondly, we have the support of the Morris County police chiefs.”
The Morris County Park Police were absorbed by the Sheriff’s Office, effective Jan. 1, 2022, in a move that kept 24 park officers on staff and is expected to enable an increase in overall park patrols, while addressing insurance coverage issues that arose last year with the Park Police. The former Park Police officers were sworn to a newly formed Patrol Division within the Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 31, which is supervised by Chief Jack Ambrose of the Sheriff’s Office.
“We will also be bolstering our support of the local police agencies by reassigning our K9 and Bomb Units to the new patrol function, and we will follow up by adding the Emergency Services Unit as another layer of assistance when they complete their intensive training in April. This will lead to a more timely and effective response,” the Sheriff said.
The Patrol Division already has been able to enhance protection for the state’s largest county park system, as well as other facilities patrolled by the Sheriff’s Office, including county properties, houses of worship and local communities when requested by local police chiefs. It also has been called on to support local police efforts.
Sheriff Gannon said the patrol priorities include:
- making property checks of the county parks, park facilities, golf courses and the Mennen Arena with special attention to improving park services and insuring the safety and security of the facilities, including historic sites and protecting environmental assets
- responding to calls for emergency service
- proactive policing to maintain a crime deterrence and visible presence
- assist the Sheriff’s Office response units and local police agencies when needed for major events or support at major crime scenes
- property checks of all other county buildings and facilities, including the County College of Morris
- protection of identified critical infrastructures and more than 320 houses of worship
- respond to patrol requests from local police chiefs
Morris County Park Commission Chairman Stuart Lasser attended the Commissioners’ meeting this week to endorse the merger, praising the sheriff for establishing a cooperative process to enable a smooth transition and providing confidence that the parks and related facilities will remain a priority for patrols.
“This was the right thing to do. It wasn’t easy to get it through, but if you look at the big picture it really was the right decision,” said Lasser.
The 20,000-plus acres of parkland and 39 facilities making up the park system also includes outdoor educational and recreational facilities, arboreta, conservation areas, more than 253 miles of trails and an ice skating arena. Park activities operate year-round, requiring police presence to ensure the safety of visitors and park employees alike.
Photo: Sheriff Gannon placed Sheriff's Office patches on the uniforms of Park Police officers during a swearing in ceremony on Dec. 31, 2021, one day before the merger went into effect.