fitzgerald-markChief Mark Fitzgerald in dress blues for Red Bank’s centennial parade in 2008.

Red Bank’s police chief for the past seven years plans to retire by the end of the year and has already handed command of the force over to one of the department’s four captains, borough officials confirmed last night.

Meantime, Chief Mark Fitzgerald is officially on vacation, using up accrued time off, according to Councilman Art Murphy.

redbankgreen was unable to immediately confirm last night word that Fitzgerald started a new job Monday as director of security at Riverview Medical Center. And borough officials were somewhat tightlipped about Fitzgerald’s status.

“He’s still the chief,” said borough Administrator Stanley Sickels.

At Fitzgerald’s recommendation, Captain Steve McCarthy, who heads the detective bureau and serves as department spokesman, has been in charge since late Friday afternoon, said Murphy, who serves as police commissioner.

Fitzgerald’s retirement was not announced at last night’s bimonthly council meeting. Instead, the news was dribbled out in response to questions about an apparent “transition” of power within the department from resident David Prown.

Sickels said officials were reluctant to discuss the matter because it involves personnel, which under state law government officials may not do without an employee’s permission. He said also that, as long as he’s on vacation, Fitzgerald “could change his mind” about retiring.

According to Murphy, Fitzgerald is 56 years old and has been with the department for 33 years. In recent months Fitzgerald “was talking about leaving and doing some interviews” with private sector security firms. “I understand he put in his [notice of retirement] papers a while ago,” Murphy said.

Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Murphy said the police committee, consisting of himself and council members Sharon Lee and Mike DuPont, would interview those captains who are interested in becoming chief and make a recommendation to the mayor and full council.

He said he hoped that a new chief could be selected and sworn in at the borough government’s annual reorganization meeting on January 1.