Something had to be done.
The crushing growth brought on by the opening of the Garden State Parkway caught much of northern Ocean County unprepared. Brick Township was no exception.
Suddenly, the sleepy, rural town of 4,319 souls in pre-Parkway 1950 was transformed into a bustling, booming bedroom community called home by 35,057 people by 1970. The Parkway provided a crucial link between the good paying jobs in North Jersey and the inexpensive homes in Shore towns like Brick.
The demand for municipal services grew just as quickly as the population, yet in 1971 Brick had no local police. Brick was the biggest town in New Jersey relying on the State Police for local police services. Demands on the troopers at the Laurelton Barracks were not going unnoticed in Trenton. There was no rush by Brick officials to ask taxpayers to create a police force as long as the State Police were filling the void.
The honeymoon ended when the state said it would start charging Brick for the services of the State Police. The tab would run to $500,000 a year, state officials predicted. That was serious money. With the stick came the state carrot. Brick officials could get a credit against that bill for money spent creating a local police force.
What to do? The issue was discussed heatedly in the May 1971 election campaign. Heat in Brick campaigns seldom produces light, but this time the supporters of a new police force won out.
Warren Wolf, the high school football coach, was elected mayor, defeating John McGuckin, the first mayor elected after Brick scrapped the old township committee for a mayor and council. With 15 candidates running for the council, a runoff was inevitable. It was held in June and seated a group anxious to follow Wolf's lead.
Among the winners was John Kinnevy, a retired State Police sergeant. Wolf named him to head a Police Advisory Committee to chart the course to the new police force. On Nov. 9, 1971, a unanimous council approved the local law creating the police force. To show they were serious, the also bought two patrol cars from Circle Dodge, for a total of $7,186. There were no cops, but there were cop cars. The town's two juvenile officers, who had been using Road Department vehicles, would use the cars until police officers were hired.
Kinnevy and the advisory committee screened candidates for the first leader of the police department, forwarding three names to Wolf. In February, he picked H. Walter Dodwell of Princeton, a former state trooper, to be Brick's Director of Public Safety. His salary was $16,500. He was to start March 1 and hoped to have three sergeants at work by April 1.
The old Town Hall, at 609 Brick Boulevard, had no room for the police. Wolf advocated, and had support for, a new municipal building on Chambers Bridge Road, across from Brick High School, but it was still in the planning stage. So on March 1 equipment for the new police department was moved into the old Daily Observer building on Brick Boulevard, two blocks south of Town Hall.
Owner Joseph Milza signed a two- year lease for the building, with Wolf expecting to have a new municipal building by the time the lease ran out.
The building was vacant because Milza had moved the newspaper to Toms River, rebranding it the Observer Courier Sun to include two weekly newspapers he acquired and promising to cover the entire county.
Sergeants, five of them, were hired, followed by 15 patrolmen. The course Kinnevy set shaped a department that continued to grow as Brick grew. The State Police were happy, but they were still at work in Brick.
They rounded up five of the local cops, accusing them to helping themselves to merchandise at the Two Guys store on Chambers Bridge Road in 1979 and 1980. A state grand jury indicted them on charges of theft and official misconduct. A jury convicted three of them and acquitted two others in August of 1981, following a trial in Toms River.
The young department was stung by the charges and the convictions. It took years to rebuild its reputation. Mayor Stevan J. Zboyan tinkered with the title of the leader of the department in October of 1990, naming Ronald J. Dougard as police chief. Dougard, a Vietnam War vet, was the second officer hired in 1972.
Brick got a late start creating a police department. It also got one that continues to deliver one of the safest places to live in New Jersey among municipalities with more than 75,000 people.