Primarily, Ronald Cundey wants to be a leader.
Because of that, his new role as the chief of police for Harrison Township should fit his ethos as well as a perfectly worn-in baseball glove fits an infielder.
“My goal is to grow our officers and employees here and have them ready to step in (when the time calls), because I’m not going to be here forever,” Cundey said during his second week on the job.
“You don’t stay in this job forever,” he continued, “so my goal is to have everybody prepared to move up to take over, to give them the assistance and the tools they need to improve themselves.”
A Gloucester County native and veteran of Harrison’s police department for more than two decades, Cundey is a loyal follower of Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL commander turned author and podcaster. Cundey devoured both of Willink’s books, “Extreme Ownership” and “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”
“I’m the kind of guy that likes to read and learn something new every day,” Cundey said. “I like to read and listen, take in everything, try to evaluate things and do what’s best … A lot of what Jocko does, his principles, is where I get a lot of my thoughts and ideas from.”
Cundey will take the lessons he’s learned, along with more than a quarter century of experience in public safety. into the biggest role of his career: running a department.
“It’s very meaningful,” he said. “It’s very exciting. It’s something I’ve been working toward for my whole career. It’s more exciting for me about the folks here that work with me. I’m not the guy where it’s all about me at all; it’s about this team we have here, working with these folks and trying to guide our police department to being one of the best around.
“I wouldn’t be here today without the help of everybody that works with me, the last man and woman that work here.”
Cundey, who has been on the Harrison force since 1998, took over the chief post from Thomas Mills, who held the role for 10 years. A 49-year-old Gibbstown native, Cundey said his interest in police work began during his teens. He worked in emergency services as a student at Paulsboro High School and befriended many police officers.
After briefly working at a refinery in Paulsboro following high school, Cundey got an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Gloucester County College and took part-time jobs to gain experience, including working as a Wildwood police officer in the summer of 1997.
A year later, Cundey joined the Harrison police department and has called it home ever since.
“It’s always about helping those who can’t help themselves, and being that person that can take care of things for somebody, someone who has the skills and abilities to help other people,” Cundey said of what he most enjoys about police work.
Cundey, who also managed to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Thomas Edison State University in the last decade, was officially sworn in as the department’s new chief on Jan. 1. He lives in Franklinville with his wife Veronica, daughter Riley and son Rory.
While he is only in his first month as the leader of Harrison’s force, Cundey has already made a strong impression on one young, hopeful future officer. Rory Cundey, like a lot of 8 year olds, wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
“He’s all over it,” Ronald Cundey said with a laugh. “He talks about it 24/7 and asks a million questions about it. He’s really, really into it.”
Like father, like son.