Following the retirement of the previous chief in October, David Harkins is in the midst of his first month as chief of police with the Gloucester Township Police Department. Harkins was sworn in at the Change of Command Ceremony at Camden County College on Monday, Nov. 4.
Currently in his 24th year with the GTPD, Harkins graduated from the Gloucester County Police Academy in 1995. He has risen through the GTPD ranks, serving as shift investigator and being involved with the tactical unit before being becoming a sergeant in 2002 and then lieutenant in 2005. Harkins entered an administrative role in 2006, eventually becoming deputy chief in 2010.
Harkins continued in this role for the past nine years under then-chief Harry Earle. He said he had the opportunity to collaborate over the years regarding community policing initiatives, different programs, outreach and more – all things he looks forward to continuing with the department.
However, with a new chief comes a new style and potential new ideas.
Currently, Harkins says he’s been reaching out to those across Gloucester Township in an effort to find out what potential changes and improvements could look like and in what areas they would come from.
“Right now I’m really reaching out to community members, members of the GTPD staff and more about getting input on where we can really focus to improve,” Harkins said. “At the moment, I definitely want to focus on officer wellness and making sure that our officers are happy in their positions.
“I believe that employees that feel as though their needs are being met will serve the community better; they will carry out our programs better,” Harkins added.
In identifying areas of the community or resident programs that could be improved, Harkins said he hopes to be able to improve all programs, whether new or longstanding.
“Even to take some of our programs that are well established… we want to see how we can improve them as well,” Harkins said. “We also need to reexamine how we analyze where our problems are, as far as crime or social disorder.”
Harkins said the department he’s inherited is in a great position to improve upon its already successful track record. Under the community policing model, 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, according to statistics provided by the department.
“We want those decreases to continue; we want to go in the right direction,” Harkins said.
One of the big changes in recent months for Gloucester Township residents is the avenues by which they can report crimes and contact emergency services. Harkins said, moving forward, the hope is that residents are able to more easily communicate with officers and the department as a whole.
With Harkins as chief, Anthony Minosse was promoted to deputy chief. The two will now work closely together to continue to serve the mission of the Gloucester Township Police Department.
Fortunately, the two already had a relationship before joining the force together 24 years ago.
“[Minosse] and I were actually friends before we were police officers. We were both volunteer firefighters together,” Harkins said. “He started about three months after I did as a police officer, so we worked together for a while. We worked very closely under high stress situations, so trust has been built up there over the years.”
According to Harkins, Minosse is excellent in research and development in terms of searching for police services and programs that can better the community.