Berkeley’s First Ever Police Chief Passes At 90

Samuel R. Britton Sr

BERKELEY – It’s the end of an era. The man whose name is synonymous with the Berkeley Township Police Department is gone.

Samuel R. Britton Sr., the township’s first police chief, died on Nov. 3. at Community Medical Center, surrounded by his family. He was 90. He leaves a legacy that will probably not be surpassed in the future.

Britton became the township’s first chief in 1954, when Berkeley had only a few officers in a township that was largely rural. By the time he retired in 1984, the department was a large and progressive agency.

“Chief Britton will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him,” Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Britton family.”

The police department on Pinewald-Keswick Road bears his name – the Samuel R. Britton Law Enforcement Center. His law enforcement legacy extends to many of his family members, including his brother, Berkeley Lt. James Britton, his son, Manalapan Detective Samuel Britton Jr., his grandson, Ocean County Sheriff’s Detective Joseph Chester, his nephews and niece, Berkeley Lt. Anthony Kurnel, Stockon University Police Department Lt. Colleen Britton, Berkeley Sgt. David Britton, Berkeley Sgt. James Britton, Berkeley Sgt. Kenneth Burton, and New Jersey State Trooper James Kurnel, according to the police department’s Facebook page.

“Chief Britton and his family can rest easy in the knowledge that his legacy will be carried on by every officer that walks through our doors and wears our badge,” the page states. “A badge molded in time, honor and tradition from our first Police Chief Samuel R. Britton. God Speed Chief.”

Britton was born in 1928 to Anna Mae and Samuel J. Britton. He was a lifelong resident of Bayville. Samuel graduated from Toms River High School, where he played varsity football. He proudly served his country in the US Army from 1948 to 1952 and attained the rank of corporal. After his honorable discharge Britton joined the Berkeley Township Police Department, serving his community as the first Chief from 1954 to his retirement in 1984.

The Berkeley Township Police Department was named in his honor in 2003 as the Samuel R. Britton Law Enforcement Center. Mr. Britton was also an organizer of Bayville Fire Department back in the early 1950s. He was also a member of VFW Post 1593, the Maryland American Legion, Manahawkin Elks 2340, the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police Association and an honorary member of PBA Local 237.

One of his passions in life was spending time on his farm, gardening and raising his animals.

“The more you work the garden soil, the better it is. Nature will be good to you if you are good to it,” he would say. But his true passion was his family, according to his obituary. Samuel was predeceased by his parents, Anna Mae and Samuel J. Britton, his infant daughter Elaine, brothers James, Donald, Robert and sisters Pauline, Joan, Rose and Maggie.

Samuel is forever remembered by his loving wife of 48 years, Lillian “Babe” Britton; three children, Samuel R. Britton, Jr. and his wife Lynne, Sharon “Sis” Chester and her husband Joe, Sr. and Richard Britton and his girlfriend Jenn; three grandchildren, Joseph Chester, Jr., Richard Alan Britton Jr. and Hannah Jean Britton. Also surviving are many nieces and nephews.

Visiting hours will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at the Mastapeter Funeral Home, 270 Atlantic City Boulevard in Bayville. The funeral will be held starting at 9 a.m., with the service at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the funeral home. Burial will follow at the Bayville Cemetery in Bayville. In lieu of flowers, donations in Sam’s memory made to Popcorn Park Zoo 1 Humane Way Forked River NJ 08731, would be appreciated.

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Patricia A. Miller began her career in 1984 as a reporter at the Asbury Park Press. She covered a variety of towns in Ocean County and wrote an award-winning column, "Ocean Diary," each week. She later spent seven years at Greater Media Newspapers and served as managing editor of the Edison/Metuchen Sentinel, the Woodbridge Sentinel and the Brick Township Bulletin during that time. Pat spent the last 8 years as a local Patch editor. Pat has won a number of awards during her time as a journalist, including the New Jersey Press Association, the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists and the North Jersey Press Club.