Frank Newkirk had run out to get a quick lunch at one of the local fast-food establishments in town last week when something he was wearing caught the attention of the clerk behind the counter.
It was his police badge.
“She said she was going to school for law enforcement,” Newkirk said. “She told me she was interested in becoming a police officer. It’s refreshing to see that in young people with everything going on (in the country).
“They want to make their impact on law enforcement and get involved, to bring their own life experiences into the profession to improve it.”
Despite recent tumultuous months that have seen the country deal with both a pandemic and the unrest between citizens and law enforcement amid a renewed social rights movement, Newkirk is confident about the future of his profession. It’s a healthy mindset for someone in his position.
Last week, following a month in an interim role, Newkirk officially began his new job as the chief of police for Deptford Township. Newkirk, who grew up in Salem and Woolwich Township and earned a business degree at Rowan University, has served with the Deptford department for over 23 years.
“I’m excited about it,” Newkirk said. “There’s a lot of great people here that work here, so I’m excited to put my spin on things and lead the police department. I’m proud to be a cop. I know with stuff nowadays (the perception of police may be different for some), but I’m proud of what we do.
“Even though it’s tough for us right now with everything going on, I’m encouraged.
“My older son (Darius) is 19 and he’s going to school and he wants to be a police officer,” the new chief added. “It’s exciting, with everything going on, he’s still interested in being involved.”
Newkirk takes over the chief’s role from Kevin Pancoast, who retired from the force on July 31. Like Pancoast, Newkirk has spent more than two decades with the Deptford police department and worked his way through the ranks.
It’s been a worthwhile journey for someone who graduated from Kingsway Regional High School in 1990 to pursue a business degree in college.
“It just wasn’t exciting, I guess,” Newkirk said of quickly pursuing a law enforcement career at the Gloucester County Police Academy in 1996 after earning his degree.
“When you’re a young kid (business) is not as exciting,” Newkirk continued. “But a lot of the stuff I learned back then, courses in management, it all makes sense when you’re running an organization. It did pay off and I’m glad. I encourage people to go to school, especially in law enforcement, it’s definitely writing intensive.
“You can definitely tell the difference between the people that went to college,” Newkirk added. “It’s a lot of writing, the way they write reports. It’s very important in this line of work to be able to read and write and express things exactly as that happens. It’s a very important part of the job, so there was a lot of value in going to college.”
Congratulations to Chief Frank Newkirk who was sworn in today as Deptford Township Chief of Police by Mayor Paul Medany. 🎉👮♂️🚔🚓
Newkirk assumes the top police role at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way everyone operates and has had a financial impact on businesses and residents alike. And like their brethren in the medical community, police officers are first responders who still have to go about their jobs, pandemic or not.
“My wife is a nurse and she deals with it — it’s definitely impacted our lives,” he said. “But we’ll get through it. I know a lot of people are worried, but the police department will always be here no matter what, no matter what happens. We’ll be there.”
Newkirk, who lives in Wenonah with his wife, Melissa, and three children Darius, Isabella, and Trevor, is eager to get to work in his new role and hopeful for the future of the department.
“I have to hand it to our last chief; (Pancoast) was in charge (when the pandemic) started and he got us through it,” Newkirk said, adding that the department adapted by taking reports both through its website and over the phone for the first time.
“There were a lot of changes in a short period of time,” he recalled. “Changes in the way we do things, in getting equipment. It was unprecedented getting through all of that. And how we’re managing to make sure we’re maintaining everyone’s health. Making sure everyone is safe.
“The financial impact is the next stop, and I’ve been working very hard with (Mayor Paul Medany) and council to make sure we’re being financially responsible,” Newkirk continued. “We were able to hire three new officers. They worked very hard to make that happen.”