LAVALLETTE –The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office today took over the borough’s police department to ensure the “appropriate level of direction and supervision” for the 11-member force, Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said.
Billhimer said the takeover was necessary as the retirement of Chief Colin Grant nears. Grant’s retirement becomes official at the end of the year, but his last day on the job before taking off time that he has accumulated is May 29, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor’s office takeover of the department comes in the midst of a controversy in the borough over who will replace Grant as chief, sources said.
The two candidates vying for the position are sergeants Christian LaCicero, who is the son of Mayor Walter LaCicero, and Justin Lamb, son of Councilman Robert Lamb. Justin Lamb is also a councilman in Toms River, representing Ward 1.
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Billhimer said he could not comment on who in the department was in line to succeed Grant.
Billhimer said Grant’s pending departure “leaves the department without the appropriate level of direction and supervision. I wanted to have overlap while he’s still there to familiarize ourselves with the day-to-day operations.”
In announcing the takeover, Billhimer said he has appointed Anthony Carrington Jr., chief of detectives for the prosecutor’s office, as the officer in charge of the police department.
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The prosecutor said he has rehired Joseph Mitchell, who retired last year as the prosecutor’s chief of detectives, to handle the day-to-day operations of the department.
Carrington, Mitchell and lieutenants Brian Haggerty and Thomas Tiernan of the prosecutor’s staff arrived at police headquarters shortly before noon this morning to inform officials of the takeover.
Billhimer announced that he had taken control over the Internal Affairs functions of Lavallette police on Dec. 16, after an audit of the department’s records.
“We support the men and women of the Lavallette Police Department and will turn our focus to ensuring public safety while preparing the department for the summer season,” the prosecutor said. “In addition to providing an officer in charge in Chief Grant’s absence, we will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the department while instituting appropriate levels of employee management and supervision.
“We will endeavor to work with the borough to develop a command staff, promulgate updated rules and regulations, and hire personnel to facilitate the department’s accreditation,” he added. “Professional and personal accountability will be required of all department employees while the department is under the day-to-day control of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. “
Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey since 1985, covers crime, court cases, legal issues and just about every major murder trial to hit Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean Mikle covers Toms River and several other Ocean County towns, and has been writing about local government and politics at the Jersey Shore for nearly 37 years. Contact her: @ jeanmikle, email@example.com.