2008-07-09 / Front Page

Matawan welcomes new police chief

Thirty-six-year veteran is PD's first black chief
BY ERIN O. STATTEL Staff Writer

Police Chief James Alston Police Chief James Alston MATAWAN - The Borough Council meeting room was packed with fire and police brass from the Bayshore area who eagerly gave new Police Chief James Alston a standing ovation to applause and whoops of joy.

Alston was promoted to the depart- ment's top position on July 1. Four other police officers were promoted at the Matawan Borough Council meeting, and the borough hired a probationary officer as well.

In attendance were family and friends of the appointees, as well as members of the Matawan Borough Fire Department and members from the Keyport and Aberdeen police departments, all present to show their support for the Matawan Borough Police Department.

Mayor Paul Buccellato gave a brief history of the police department and called Matawan's public servants "the best in Monmouth County."

"On behalf of myself and the council, we congratulate Chief Robert M. Mc- Gowan on his retirement," Buccellato said. "He is respected by the officers and community because of his honesty and fairness."

Buccellato also said that it was an honor to swear in the new chief and promoted officers.

Alston reaffirmed the police department's dedication to the borough after taking his oath.

"We are rededicating ourselves to serving this community," Alston said after his swearing in.

Alston, 58, is the first black chief the borough has had in the police department's 83-year history. He joined the force in 1972. Alston replaces Robert M. McGowan, who was promoted to chief in 2006.

"I love the town and I love the job," Alston replied when asked why he has stayed in Matawan Borough for the past 36 years. "It is a warm, close community."

Alston listed strengthening community relations and improving the internal and external structure of the police department among his goals.

"I want to improve the structures, both the people in the building and the building itself," he said. "Hopefully, we can open the doors of the police station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, too."

Sgt. Jason Gallo was promoted to the position of lieutenant at the July 1 Borough Council meeting.

Gallo joined the force in 1992 and in 2000 served as a DARE officer in the Ravine Drive School.

"He was so well liked that the children from the Ravine Drive School came to watch "Officer J" sworn in as sergeant in 2004," Buccellato said in his comments before Gallo recited his oath.

"I feel like this town is rewarding me," Gallo said after the ceremony. "I grew up in the area and years later I am now going to work every day here, and it still feels like home."

Also appointed to the position of lieutenant was Detective Sgt. Ben Smith.

"I am honored to be a part of the command staff with the Matawan Police Department and will work with the chief of police to continuously improve the services provided to the citizens of Matawan," Smith said prior to his swearing in.

Smith joined the force in 1988 as a police dispatcher and has served on the Bayshore Narcotics Task Force.

Smith and Detective Matthew O'Boyle were recently lauded by the FBI for their involvement in apprehending a ring of local bank robbers.

Officer Patrick Walker has served the borough of Matawan for 13 years and was promoted to the rank of sergeant at the ceremony.

"Patrick is following in his father's footsteps," Buccellato said prior to Walker's swearing in. "Patrick's father, Jim, served Matawan for 29 years on the police force."

Buccellato recounted Walker's numerous commendations received while in the Matawan Borough Police Department.

"Officer Walker and his partner Wolf are the first K- 9 team in the department's history. Patrick is a tactical officer for the Monmouth County Emergency Response Team," Buccellato read. "He is a member of the 200 Club and received the Medal of Honor for rescuing a drowning person in Lake Lefferts."

Eight-year veteran Jeremiah E. Hourihan III was sworn in to the position of sergeant.

Three generations of the Hourihan family were present for Hourihan's swearing in. Hourihan's father, Jeremiah Hourihan Jr., a retired Aberdeen police officer, and grandfather Jeremiah Hourihan Sr., a regular at Borough Council meetings and active community resident, watched as Hourihan assumed the rank of sergeant.

The final addition to the Matawan Borough Police Department was Michael Pascone, a former state corrections officer, who was hired as a probationary officer.

"Matawan is a great town and has a great department," Pascone said. "Some of my friends work here and I grew up here. I am glad it finally happened."

The council thanked the officers and continued the meeting as the newly appointed officers and their friends and family exited the room.

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