West Milford's new top cop takes over Chief Timothy Storbeck takes on the challenges of the township

| 09 Aug 2012 | 10:38

By Linda Smith Hancharick

— When West Milford’s new police chief took over the reins of the 42-person department on July 1, the transition was basically seamless. That’s because Captain Timothy Storbeck had spent his entire 21-year career in law enforcement right here in West Milford. And, as former Chief Gene Chiosie’s right-hand man, Storbeck knew the lay of the land pretty well. Now, Chief Storbeck has hit the ground running.

Product of West Milford

Storbeck, 47, was born and raised in West Milford, graduating from West Milford High School. He spent four years in the Navy before becoming an officer in the West Milford Police Department.
Although he has attained the highest rank in his department, he didn’t necessarily set out to do that really.
“I never thought I would be here,” he said. “I never thought I’d rise to this level. I like to learn different things. As I progressed through my career, that’s what I did.”
He took the chiefs test last June along with Chiosie, who was acting chief at the time. Chiosie was named chief last fall and Storbeck got the opportunity to see how it all works close up.
He’s a believer in sharing what he knows. Storbeck said he has worked closely with the other officers through the years, sharing his knowledge and training them as well as learning from others.
Now that he is leading his department, Storbeck has some challenges, both on the street and in the budget.

Doing more with less

“We are trying to do our police work and trying to maintain what we did in the past with reduced manpower,” said Storbeck, an issue shared by his two most recent predecessors.
Just before he was promoted to chief by Mayor Bettina Bieri, the council decided not to replace two officers who retired this year, including Chiosie and Tom Celano who left in February. That was a surprise to Storbeck and others who thought the council would keep the department at 44. Instead, Storbeck was looking at a 42-person department.
“That's my biggest challenge really,” said Storbeck on Monday, “to restructure the department and provide what we’ve been providing.”
So he will do more with less, something that's not new to him. Just two years ago, the department was down to 39 sworn officers; an independent FBI-LEEDA report said the department should be at 48 with the population in the township. Still, it is one of the largest forces in the area.
“I understand the council is looking at (staying within in the budget),” said Storbeck. “And I understand the residents are upset with their taxes and the revaluation. We have to compromise.”

Keeping up the attack

Priorities for Storbeck include keeping up the attack on the drug problem that has spread from the urban areas to the more bucolic country locales such as West Milford.
“It’s complicated. We’re trying to keep the investigations going and keep enough officers out on the street,” he said. “It’s a work in progress and we’ll continue to keep the pressure on that (the drug issue). It’s an important issue. It’s still a top priority.”
Not replacing the two officers will hamper his efforts to increase community policing - seminars with seniors, meeting with young people - and he said they will work it in when they can.
Bieri has confidence in the new chief.
“He is extremely professional, logical and capable,” said Bieri. “He is very well respected by the community and the officers. He’ll do a great job.”

Through the ranks

Storbeck has worked under four different chiefs in his career and has gone through the ranks. Former Chief James Breslin hired Storbeck back in 1991 and promoted him to sergeant nine years later. He became a lieutenant under Chief James Dykstra and moved from patrol to administration under former Chief Paul Costello. He was promoted to captain under Chiosie.
“I saw something different under each chief,” said Storbeck. “It was good to work under all of them. I’ve learned from each of them different ways they attack issues.”
And everyone in the department certainly knows Storbeck.
“I’ve worked side by side with all of the officers,” said Storbeck. “We have a good bond.”
And, he added, “morale is high.”
“I hope it continues that way.”