In the kitchen with Police Chief Timothy Storbeck

| 18 Oct 2012 | 01:17

By Ginny Raue

In 1929, when West Milford had 1,900 residents, John Moeller became a special police officer. Prior to that, New Jersey State Police kept law and order in the Mayberry-like township.

A 1933 township committee request to form a police department “to help make the township a God-fearing one, one from which all law breakers will stay clear,” resulted in the naming of a part-time special officer, W. Sommers Stites, as chief. In 1934, Moeller became the first full-time officer, then the first full-time chief in 1949. He retired in 1971.

He was followed by John Ryan, James Breslin, James Dykstra, Paul Costello and Gene Chiosie. And now there’s a new guy, Timothy Storbeck, sitting in the chief’s chair. He may be new to the title but not to police work, coming to the job with 21 years experience and a healthy respect for those who came before him and the current group of men and women who comprise West Milford’s Police Department.

Storbeck, 47, grew up in West Milford. He was a Boy Scout and a kid who enjoyed the great outdoors. A product of the township’s school system, he graduated West Milford High School in 1982 then entered the United States Navy. During his four-year stint he specialized in aviation electronics.

Now a Vernon resident, Storbeck and Debra, his wife of 24 years, have two adult children; Randi, 18, currently studying cosmetology, and Timothy, 21. Timothy, a Coast Guard Academy senior, is looking towards law enforcement work within the Coast Guard.

After the Navy, Storbeck worked in heating and air conditioning but thought off and on about police work.

“Being in the military, it felt like a natural progression, to help people and serve,” he said.

At age 27, Storbeck entered the Police Academy and joined West Milford’s force in 1991. Coming up through the ranks he worked on and headed up varying units; accident investigation, the dive/SWAT team and special operations unit, to name a few.

“I’ll miss being hands on but I think that the important part is that we keep training the guys behind us,” he said. He never thought about becoming chief, he said, his interest was in learning and passing it on.

“I studied hard and worked hard. I am very honored and privileged to achieve this rank,” Storbeck said.

Asked how police work affects life outside the job, Storbeck said he missed some important days at home, especially in the early years on the force. That's how he learned to make the most of his time off.

“The big thing is that you have a supportive family. We always try to do things as a family. We traveled across the country in a camper, taking the kids to the national parks when they were younger. So you miss some of the days but then you appreciate the time off that you have,” he said.

Working with men and women who rely on each other for safety’s sake and spending a lot of time together creates a close-knit bond. “They are definitely my extended family,” the chief said.

While Storbeck took over the reins from Chiosie in July, his official swearing in ceremony took place on Sept. 19 in Town Hall. Surrounded by family, friends, co-workers and retired chiefs, it was an emotional experience for him. Now on the job a few months, he’s settling in.

“I can’t say it’s routine yet. While I worked with Chief Chiosie it’s still different when you are ultimately the one in charge,” he said.

Part of the job is overseeing the influx of visitors to town for special events such as the recent Air Show and Autumn Lights Festival. His aim is to have fun and safe events for the township.

Storbeck’s hope for the future of the department is to continue moving forward, be effective and provide programs for the town while coping with the challenge of the current economy.

The town and the job have grown significantly since the first chief took the reins in 1933 and Storbeck now has 25,850 residents under his watch. We’re not in Mayberry anymore.

On his time off, Storbeck enjoys riding his motorcycle and Debra rides along with him. He likes to hunt and travel with his family although this summer was “a little crazy” for getting away.

He doesn’t cook much but once a year for the last 10 years he has achieved redemption when he and Debra make a turkey and stuffing to bring to the police station for the officers on duty on Thanksgiving Day. That’s putting "thanks” into action.