After nearly 33 years of service with the Gloucester Township Police Department, Chief Harry Earle is set to retire at the end of October, handing over the reins to current Deputy Chief David Harkins.
Earle, raised in Gloucester Township, started with the department in 1987 at age 19 as a part-time dispatcher, later splitting time as a special officer. Continuing to rise through the ranks, Earle later became a full-time police officer in 1988 before eventually reaching ranks such as sergeant, lieutenant, captain and more before becoming chief of police in 2010.
During his time as chief, Earle says he is potentially most proud of the department’s adaptation and switch to a community policing model, something that was quickly embraced after he took over as chief.
“It centered around really trying to create problem-solving partnerships to address social disorder, that’s the focus that we aimed on,” said Earle. “It wasn’t just having police officers interacting with community members and neighborhood watch groups and Coffee with a Cop – we do all of those things and they’re important.
“But the programs and the initiatives that come out of the department are much broader; Project SAVE, the Family Resource Center, how officers handle types of calls with mental health crisis situations – all those go back to the definition of the community policing model with partnerships to address social disorder. It’s pretty well documented it’s the social disorder that causes crime, so if we can address the social disorder, then we can reduce crime.”
According to statistics provided by the Gloucester Township Police Department, Earle’s’ assertion the department should follow the community policing model seems to have paid off. Overall crime has fallen more than 30 percent from 2009 to 2017, with violent crime taking a more than 50 percent dip over the same time period.
In his more than 30 years with the department, Earle says he enjoyed learning about the legacy and story of the department throughout different decades and using that as a way to facilitate discussion about change.
During presentations in the past, he’s started them with a black-and-white picture of the department from the 1950s on the municipal building’s front steps with its eight full-time officers. Over time, the needs of the department, the community and residents have changed, forcing each to adapt.
“We’ve changed a lot,” Earle said. “I talk about the chiefs before me and chiefs before that, and I think about how every chief has done and changed so much; if they didn’t we’d still look like that front step.”
During his time as chief, Earle says he’s proud to have hopefully made a positive impact on the community and department, hoping to have helped create a worthwhile bond between the two moving forward that will only get better, a majority of which he says is owed to the officers throughout the department.
“The buy-in and commitment of the men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department over the past nine and a half years has been tremendous because we’ve asked a lot from them,” said Earle. “For me, I’m thankful that they all had that commitment to sometimes try something new. It didn’t always work every time, but if it didn’t we stopped that and went another route, but genuinely the constant pursuing of new projects and initiatives were key.”
Moving forward, Earle says he plans to stay active in the International Association of Chiefs of Police, being the chairperson of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Committee, while also spending time with family.
Mayor David R. Mayer issued a statement on social media after news broke about Earle’s retirement, thanking him for his service with the department.
“Having become chief of police in 2010, he has been a tremendous force in spearheading numerous initiatives that have recognized the Gloucester Township Police Department on county, state, national, and international levels. His passion to serve and protect our residents, combined with his drive for implementing the latest technological advancements, has made an exponential impact on Gloucester Township and created a much safer community.
Harkins will be sworn in as chief of police at a Change in Command Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. It will be open to the public. The location and details for the event have not yet been announced.