Moorestown Police Director and Mt. Laurel resident Harry E. Johnson was known for his dry sense of humor, good leadership and kind heart. It was because of him that the Moorestown Police Department is where it is today technologically, as he was always forward thinking and willing to try new things for safer policing.
Now, Moorestown is mourning the loss of Johnson, as he passed away on Friday, April 24 of heart failure at the age of 62. Members of the Moorestown community expressed shock and sadness of Moorestown’s great loss.
“It really is a tremendous loss. Harry was a great employee and overall great guy,” township manager Scott Carew said.
“He was a really great part of our community. He was an officer in town for over 30 years and really brought Moorestown into the technological era for our police department…making sure we had the updated technology needed to be a top-notch police force,” Councilwoman Stacey Jordan said.
“It’s obviously a huge loss to us. I’ve worked with him my whole career, as have many others. He was always a very active and forward-thinking police officer. As the director, he was always trying new things to help us move forward with safer policing for our residents,” Lt. Lee Lieber of the department said.
Johnson graduated from Burlington City High School and attended Stockton State College. After college, he served in the Marines as a corrections officer and on border patrol.
After leaving the Marines, Johnson attended the police academy and became an officer in Edgewater Park. He later joined the Moorestown Police Department where he worked his way through the ranks to his position as director of police in 1999.
Lieber talked about Johnson’s cutting-edge thinking, sense of humor and his thoughtful leadership.
“He’s all around a good guy,” Lieber said.
Lieber credited Johnson with being the one to bring the Moorestown Police Department into the 21st century. He was the one to get computers into Moorestown’s police cars along with other software and technological advances. According to Lieber, he was always the first to try new policing technology and make the Moorestown Police Department a trailblazer.
“Some people wait and see; Harry was always willing to take the chance, usually for the good. Other departments came to us for recommendations or guidance. He wasn’t afraid to make a commitment and not afraid to jump into the computer age,” Lieber said.
With a smile on his voice, Lieber told the story of Johnson conducting interviews, showing his fun side. One of the questions Johnson asked right off the bat was a complicated accident reconstruction question that couldn’t be done without paper, a pen and a calculator. Lieber thought he was serious, and so did the interviewee, as apparently he looked ready to fall out of his chair. But Johnson started laughing soon after at his joke, and that helped to ease the interview afterward.
“He had a very dry sense of humor and liked to play around with people, but he really had a very good heart,” Lieber said.
As a leader, Lieber said Johnson was a fair man, allowing for input from officers, but making the final decision himself, of course. The example Lieber used was when the officers wanted to change the graphics on the police cars. They came to ask about the change, and Johnson allowed the officers to come up with the design themselves, and after review, accepted it.
At the Moorestown Council meeting on Monday, April 27, members of the council offered their condolences to Johnson’s family as well as the Moorestown Police Department’s officers.
“It is a great loss for Moorestown and Harry will be very and greatly missed,” Mayor Victoria Napolitano said.
Johnson is survived by his wife Deborah, children Erika and Harry, his mother Jane and siblings Cathleen, Jane and Sheri. He was a dedicated and loving husband and father, who loved to travel and fish.
Carew mentioned during the meeting that he anticipates the township finding an appropriate way to recognize Johnson’s service to Moorestown sometime in the future.
Johnson’s viewing and service were held last week at Bradley Funeral Home in Marlton and at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Marlton. Military and police honors followed at Parkview Cemetery at Kirby’s Mill in Medford.
For those who wish, a donation can be made to Erika and Harry Johnson at P.O. Box 364, Marlton, N.J. 08053, for their education fund.