Captain Pete DeFazio is leaving the Red Bank PD after 35 years.
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Pete DeFazio has always been a Green Bay Packers fan, which may seem odd given that he’s a born-and-bred Red Banker living in a state with two pro football teams.
“I like cold weather,” he says, by way of explanation. “I’ve been to Wisconsin a few times”.
He sports a Packers sticker on his office door and, since his father passed away and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown, where the late Packers head coach Vince Lombardi also rests, DeFazio jokes that his dad has the legendary coach for a neighbor.
The elder DeFazio didn’t really have a favorite team, so the son’s passion didn’t come from his father. But DeFazio’s sense of community service did. Like his dad before him, DeFazio has served on the Red Bank First Aid Squad and Relief Engine Co. since he was a young man.
He went one step further, though. When a spot opened up on the Red Bank police force in 1975, DeFazio started a career as a policeman first as a dispatcher, then a patrolman and, eventually, captain, the highest rank within the force short of chief.
Now, DeFazio says he’s reached the end of the line at the department, and will retire. His last day on the force will be May 18.
“The job is a younger man’s job. The running on the street, those days are over for me,” said DeFazio, 59. “There comes a time when you have to say goodbye.”
Governor Chris Christie certainly made the decision to walk away a bit easier, DeFazio admits. Christie recently signed into law pension and health benefit reform that, for many veteran public servants, dissuades them from staying on the force because they stand to lose money in the form of capped vacation days they can cash out and a requirement that they contribute to their health coverage, DeFazio said. Three deputy chiefs in Middletown have already retired since the bill was signed.
“I was thinking about (retiring) anyway, and when the governor passed the bill, it made it a little easier,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio’s departure will leave a second hole in Red Bank’s captain ranks. Before Steve McCarthy was promoted to chief in January, there were four captains. Once DeFazio leaves, there will be two captain positions open each at a salary of about $117,000 and neither will be filled, McCarthy said, in order to address budget concerns.
DeFazio, who’s also the borough’s emergency management coordinator, says he’ll keep active in town by staying on the first aid and fire companies because, he said, “you have to help your community. You have to help somebody.”
Although he’s lived by that mantra for decades, he learned exactly what that really means first hand four years ago, when his house was devastated by fire.
He said in that trying time for his family, the police and fire departments, local businesses and perfect strangers helped his family out in a way he couldn’t have imagined.
“If we didn’t have the help from the people, we wouldn’t have survived,” he said. “It was incredible.”
In retirement, DeFazio says he’ll be able to spend more time with his family a wife, Kathy, and two daughters in college but also spend more time alone. He’s an avid hunter and a fan of camping out in the woods.
He’s not sure what he’ll do for work, if anything. He knows his way around electrical systems, plumbing, wood and just about anything a neighbor in need could want, he says.
“I’m a handyman type of guy,” he said. “I’m sure that I’ll find something to keep myself busy.”
Plus, for part of the year, there are all those Packers games to catch.