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COURT HOUSE - Cape May County has 11 municipal police departments, the largest being Ocean City, with 59 sworn officers, and the smallest being West Wildwood, with five. Each department is headed by a police chief.

In 2019, the Herald looked at the salaries of the men and one woman who held those police chief positions. Reader interest has led to an update on that information for 2021. 

It is worth noting that four of the 11 chiefs were appointed between 2019 and 2021, and another three were new to the position in 2019. The longest-serving chiefs in the county date to appointments in 2015.

Data for this update comes from the state pension system, as of June 30, 2021, and 2018 statistics on sworn officers maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

New Jersey Law Enforcement

The structure of law enforcement in New Jersey is distributed across more law enforcement agencies than any other state, with three exceptions. New Jersey has 531 law enforcement agencies for a state that is 11th among 50 in population, 47th in total area, and first in population density.

The only states with more law enforcement agencies than New Jersey are Pennsylvania, with 1,074, Michigan, with 609, and Texas, with 570. New Jersey has more FBI-recognized law enforcement agencies than California, New York and Florida, all more populous states.

This is part of the New Jersey tradition of home rule. It can lead small boroughs, like West Wildwood, with a 2020 census population of 540 permanent residents and a total area of less than half a square mile, to maintain a separate municipal police department.

Chief Salaries

The state pension system provides salary data for the previous four quarters of activity. The data currently available runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. It represents the salary, as of June 30, 2021. 

For police chiefs across all 11 municipal departments, salaries total $1,806,501, with the highest being in Wildwood, at $219,330, and the lowest being in West Wildwood, at $102,018.

Of the 11, three are at salaries lower than the position commanded in 2019, but in each of those cases, the current chief was appointed to the position in 2021. 

In Cape May, the chief’s salary, at $128,686, declined 4% from 2019. In North Wildwood, it is $140,044, or 3.5% lower than in 2019. In Lower Township, the salary of the current chief, at $135,306, is 11% lower than that of his predecessor in 2019.

The two chiefs with the greatest longevity in the position are in Wildwood and Middle Township, both appointed in 2015. While the Wildwood position represents the highest-paid county chief, with a 26% increase over 2019, Middle Township’s chief is at $168,824, an increase of 10% since 2019.

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Ocean City has the largest department in the county, where the chief’s salary is $175,416. Ocean City has the largest year-round population of any of the island communities. In Sea Isle City, the chief’s salary is slightly lower, at $171,473.

Seven Mile Island boasts two municipal departments. The chief in Avalon has 21 sworn officers, and the position’s salary is $138,536. Neighboring Stone Harbor maintains 17 sworn officers, with a chief’s salary of $136,856. 

Nearby Wildwood Crest, with 21 sworn officers, sits in that same ballpark salary range, with the chief’s salary at $135,306.

The average salary across all 11 positions is $150,542. Only three of the chiefs have a salary higher than that average: Wildwood, Ocean City, and Middle Township.

Outside the municipal departments, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office has a position of chief of county detectives with a current salary of $158,082.

Only one of the 11 municipal police departments has a contract to provide police service to other municipalities, Cape May Police Department also covers West Cape May and Cape May Point.

The remaining three of the county’s 16 municipalities, Upper Township, Dennis Township and Woodbine, receive police services through an arrangement with New Jersey State Police.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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