Hail To The (New) Chief
Mendham Borough to appoint Sergeant Pasquale Libertino to top cop post.
Mendham Borough, there is a new Sherriff in town.
Well, not really, but it makes a fun opening sentence.
After an exhaustive search, the Mendham Borough Council is set to install veteran Sgt. Pasquale Libertino as their new chief once a few of the details, including a physical and psychological exam, are completed.
Libertino is a unique individual. Spoken highly of by his peers in surrounding departments, he is not cut from the same cloth as many law enforcement officers. The man who would be chief is well aware of his different mindset, and credits his life experience for giving him a way to view the world that many police officers don’t have.
“I was born in Italy and speak fluent Italian,” Sgt. Libertino, an Independence resident, said. “And I grew up in Patterson and I saw a lot as a kid watching the cops interact with the community.”
Libertino said that officers in his time used their discretionary powers more. If kids were caught doing something, a lot of the time they were driven home and left with their parents to deal with. Or they were brought to the precinct and had to wash cars, Libertino said.
“Not in the case of a major crime. But if they were throwing rocks at cars or some other form of mischief,” Libertino said.
One particular night, when he was a teenager hanging out at the Hawthorne Library stuck with him when he and his friends were rousted by cops for loitering.
“I will never forget that. The way the treated us. The way they spoke to us,” Libertino said.
That night at the library was a touchstone moment for Libertino, as was a motocycle accident he had back in 2009 that nearly cost him his life.
“That experience was incredible. The outpouring of support as I was recovering,” Libertino said. “The letters and the cards from people who didn’t even know me.”
The totality of these experiences has left Libertino with a very clear perspective.
“There are many things I want to start implementing immediately when it comes to the concept of community policing,” said Libertino who spoke for over three hours with the hiring committee that included Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry, councilman Brad Badal, resident David Murphy and retired Andover Police Chief Phillip Coleman.
While a variety of topics were covered, including budgeting and situational scenarios, Libertino stressed his vision for how things in the department would change under his watch.
“We look at the shield on a police cruiser and we see ‘protect and serve’. Well, we all know about protect. But what does it mean to serve,” Libertino said. “We need to give back to the community. We need to volunteer some of our time and I am going to lead by example.”
Controlling costs is in the front of Libertino’s mind. Acknowledging that times have changed and that people are looking for more for their dollar. And that includes police. But the veteran officer is also quick to point out his philosophy will extend out from behind bookkeeping behind a desk.
“Community policing is more than just putting on a hat and riding around. It is about talking with people at their houses. Its about sitting down with them for a slice of pizza in the local pizzeria. It is about being an actual member of the community,” Libertino said. “I want an open department. I want the community to feel welcome when they come in and I want them to know where our money goes and how it is being used to serve them. I am going to work weekends and holidays. I am not going to be a 9-5 chief. I am going to lead by example.”
Another philosophy Libertino believes in is introspection before action.
“If you see a car double parked, don’t just go right to the ticket. Find out if there is an emergency. Maybe they need assistance,” Libertino said. “Don’t just write tickets. Find out what I going on.”
Libertino credits his personal struggles for informing his beliefs.
“Accidents happen. I’m human. I make mistakes. And I think its important that you try to put yourself in someone’s shoes before passing judgment,” Libertino said.”Look at the situation and try to treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
If all goes according to plan, Libertino will celebrate his 25th anniversary with Mendham Borough on July 1 and be sworn in as Chief on July 2 in front of his family, friends and coworkers.
The perfect way to celebrate a quarter century in Mendham.
“We are so fortunate we work in the excellent community that we do,” Libertino said.