John Zebrowski elected as president of NJ Police Chiefs Association

Sayreville Police Chief Zebrowski will serve as president for a one-year term.

Members of the New Jersey State Association of Police Chiefs (NJSACOP) have elected Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski as their new president for a one-year term that begins July 1.

Zebrowski – a lifelong Sayreville resident and its police chief for a decade – will have a broad statewide role as head of this prestigious association. Zebrowski says his main objectives are to reduce the polarization between law enforcement and New Jersey communities and build lasting bridges that enhance the public’s understanding, cooperation and communication.

“I am eager to give back to the Association. Other chiefs were enormously helpful to me when I was promoted to police chief in 2011,” Zebrowski said. “I had a lot of questions and relied on the tremendous guidance that I received from the NJSACOP. They were eager to help me hone my skills to be a better leader and manager.”

Zebrowski takes the association’s helm with a distinctive perspective: A graduate of Seton Hall School of Law, he is also a practicing attorney in civil matters unrelated to policing. “I am able to examine issues from a variety of perspectives,” he said. “This also allows me to be a better police chief.”

Zebrowski said NJSACOP is a trusted resource for hundreds of municipal police chiefs in New Jersey, as well as county and municipal administrators. The state Association addresses the statewide policing issues that individual police chiefs often cannot, creating a large, uniform voice that advocates for better law enforcement policies and practices that make New Jersey a progressive leader nationally.

Zebrowski, a sworn officer since August 1988 in Sayreville, is quick to admit that a one-year term does not allow him to tackle the myriad issues that affect modern-day police officers. But, he has identified front-burner issues that he hopes will be a lasting legacy of his presidency. Those issues include: 

Mandatory Police Licensure:

“There needs to be licensure among all state law enforcement agencies,” Zebrowski said. “By having set standards for professionalism, we can establish a better bar for recruits, have better uniformity in continuing education, and better bridge the gap from recruit to retirement. It is important to have this standardization and transparency at the municipal, county, and state level, as the police continue to grow and transition to meet the needs of the community.”

Zebrowski said that police licensure would require a bill through the state Legislature and the governor, noting the New Jersey Police Training Commission has been in talks with state lawmakers about moving such legislation forward.

Put Crime Data in Context:

In December, the state Attorney General revised the statewide “Use of Force Policy,” which requires law enforcement to report detailed information of using force against a civilian within 24 hours of an incident. 

“No doubt, the Use of Force portal provides important information,” Zebrowski said. “But without understanding the circumstances around certain data that is listed, someone who doesn’t do additional research may come to the wrong conclusion about that the data means.”

Zebrowski is calling for the NJSACOP to develop an analytical arm, in which independent researchers can help the public interpret released data. He hopes that other police associations in New Jersey, as well as foundations, will support efforts to crunch raw data to make it meaningful and informative.

Address Shoplifting:

Zebrowski said New Jersey is among the most punitive states when it comes to prosecuting shoplifters. Often, however, shoplifting should not be dismissed as just another petty crime. Often, there are mental, behavioral, and economic reasons that should be considered.

“There needs to be a diversionary program in New Jersey to remove certain offenders from the criminal justice system,” he said, noting the NJSACOP should work with the non-profit National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. He wants to create a streamlined and uniform response to shoplifting, maximizing the value of each apprehension to prevent recidivism.

“Rather than prosecuting offenders, we should explore the need to provide social services and counseling,” Zebrowski said. “There may be a significant, underlying reason why, for example, someone is shoplifting a pair of socks in the winter.  Rather than blindly send that case to court, there may be a way we can help that individual.”