A receiving line formed in the lobby of the Municipal Building as dozens of people shook now Chief of Police David Paprota’s hand, congratulating him on the promotion.
The township Committee unanimously approved the promotion of Paprota from Captain of the Lacey Township Police Department to Chief of Police Thursday night. As his youngest son held the Bible, Paprota was sworn in.
“I commit to my term as chief, I’m going make every day the best it can be and always look towards improvement and in doing that, I know through my experience that’s going to mean a lot for the police department, for the officers for the public and the township as a whole,” Paprota said.
The Committee selected Paprota after months of deliberation over the possibility of hiring a public safety director, following the retirement of former Chief William Nally.
The Committee had gotten pressure from residents throughout the community to consider a public safety director, Committeeman Gary Quinn said.
“I want people to understand that our job as Committee members is to take and look at all the avenues available to us for putting the best people into the best leadership positions in this town,” he said.
The township had 20 candidates for public safety director and narrowed it down to four, ultimately interviewing three.
“At the end of the day, when all that was done, we knew in this township here, we had the best possible candidate to lead this police department for the upcoming years,” Quinn said.
Paprota was born in Lacey and is a graduate of Lacey Township High School. He joined the Lacey Township Police Department in 1992 and achieved the top test scores in the state on each of his promotional examinations. He was named captain in 2005.
Committeewoman Helen DelaCruz said Paprota’s passion and love for Lacey showed at Red Night Out, a township-wide event promoting a drug free community. Paprota made a presentation on drug addiction in Lacey Township that was “stellar” and “articulate.”
Quinn said he's 'mesmorized' by Paprota's intelligence, dedication, his ability to interpret law and the way he treats people.
"Lacey’s starting a new chapter today," he said. "There is nobody in mind who would be more qualified to lead this great group of men and women than yourself."
Committeeman Sean Sharkey has only gotten to know Paprota during his term.
“After having met you a few times and listening to you and hearing what your vision is for the future of the department, I know that this township is in very good hands,” he said.
Paprota prepared a budget for the police department for not only 2013-14 but with the next three years in mind, Mayor David Most said.
Paprota began work in the department upon Nally’s retirement as Officer in Charge. His first order of business was initiating a crime alert on the police department’s website to allow residents access to timely information on criminal activity that may be affecting their neighborhoods.
“Chief, I’m proud to call you chief,” Most said, adding that during his time as Officer in Charge, Paprota showed the Committee his leadership abilities and talents. “You’ve exceeded all my expectations as mayor and I have to tell you, hands down, you’re the right man for the job.”
As Chief, Paprota wants to focus on inter-agency collaboration to combat the problems Lacey Township is facing, Paprota said. The collaboration would include the Ocean County Narcotics Strike Forces and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Department of Consumer Affairs and other agencies, he said.
“I will focus on bringing the police department in closer touch with the community and in turn the community with the police department,” he said. “The police department will participate like never before in interactive programs with the schools, community organizations and general public.”
The Committee also approved a resolution setting Paprota’s salary at $158,000. Paprota made $155,000 as captain.
The position of captain will not be filled upon Paprota’s promotion, Quinn said. The township will see a savings from the open position as well as upcoming retirements within the police department, he said.
This will give the Committee the ability to hire four more police officers without an increase in the budget, he said.
“We are thrilled the township went the way they went,” said Dawn Stevens, President of the Dispatchers Association.
Stevens has worked at the police department for 16 years and said Paprota is “great” to work with and for.
“We’re all very excited,” Patrolman George Resetar said.
Resetar has worked with Paprota for 14 years at the Lacey Township Police Department. When Resetar started his career at the department, Paprota was sergeant.
“It’s very special for us,” he said, adding that Paprota will take the department in a “positive direction.” “He’s got a good vision.”
Paprota joined the police department in 1992 after serving with the Tinton Falls Police Department in Monmouth County, according to the Lacey Township Police Department's website. He earned a Doctorate Degree, Ed.D., from Seton Hall University in 2012, is a published author and has produced police training materials.