BERKELEY – Chief Kevin Santucci said Berkeley has a diverse group of people, with various needs, and he looks forward to helping them all.
He joined Berkeley police 20 years ago, and was just sworn in as chief. His favorite part of the job is getting out there and interacting with people.
“They are genuinely appreciative when you help them,” he said. Sometimes, it’s a big thing, helping someone solve a major problem. Other times, it’s talking to a senior in Holiday City who just wants to be heard.
“When you can do something positive for someone, they really appreciate you,” he said. These little moments are made all the more important by the negative view a lot of people have of law enforcement. Granted, Ocean County in general and Berkeley Township in particular have a more positive view of the police.
It’s outside of this area that police get a bad name. However, most of that comes from social media, which is not a very accurate way to view the world. And that circles back to the importance of getting out there and meeting with people and seeing what they need and how you can help.
Berkeley is made up of several very distinct areas, some of which never even touch each other. Manitou Park, which is separated from Bayville by South Toms River, is different than Pinewald. Even the shore areas of South Seaside Park and Pelican Island are different than the shore areas of the lagoon properties east of Route 9.
“What’s a big problem to the seniors might not be a big problem to the people who live on the beach,” he said.
But some issues are the same no matter where you live. Santucci said that traffic is one of those universal problems. Everyone in Ocean County dislikes the traffic. And unfortunately, narcotics is a problem everywhere, not just in Berkeley. We’re still in the midst of an opioid epidemic.
Berkeley has a lot of young officers right now. The town won a grant to bring in ten new officers. He’d like to see the department tackle more quality of life issues, such as even more narcotics investigations.
He’s grateful for the tips that residents provide. “People don’t realize how much that helps,” he said.
Former Chief Karin DiMichele retired on April 30 after 10 years as chief, and 26 years as a Berkeley officer.
Santucci was deputy chief under DiMichele and was promoted after her retirement. He said the biggest thing he learned from her was her professionalism. Both in the public eye, and behind the scenes, she held the upmost standards.
As is often the case with police officers, it runs in the family. His older brother is the chief of Colts Neck. He also has cousins in the force.
Santucci began his law enforcement career in 1999 working summers with the Seaside Park Police. In 2001 he started in Ocean Gate and months later joined Berkeley. In 2008 was assigned to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Operations Group, assisting in narcotics and gang related investigations.
He made sergeant in 2009, worked in the patrol division, supervised the marine unit, and performed administrative duties and internal affairs investigations.
From 2013 to 2018, he was promoted to lieutenant, then captain, then deputy chief. With each new title came more responsibility and leadership.
Born and raised in Berkeley Township, he is a 1996 graduate of Central Regional High School. He is a past president of the Berkeley Twp. Superior Officers Association and is an active member of Chapter 10 of the Police Unity Tour.