Darryl Breckenridge is winding down a career of 35 years with the police in his hometown. He’s seen below at a 2012 Veteran’s Day commemoration with World War II veteran Ray Taylor. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
There was a knock on the family’s front door in Fair Haven, and when he looked up, “I saw that policeman’s hat” through the topmost pane, he told redbankgreen this week.
Wearing “that hat” was police Chief Carl Jaubecy, who let young Darryl sit in his lap as he offered the boy’s mother a job as a school crossing guard.
“That was it,” said Breckenridge, who’s now closing out a 35-year career in law enforcement, the last 10 as chief himself. “From that day, I knew I was going to do it.”
Dorothy Breckenridge took the job and held it for 25 years, crossing students at the Knollwood School while her young son stood on the curb nearby, pretending to direct traffic, too. The local cops used to let him ride along in their squad cars.
As other kids moved on from their childhood dreams and found new paths, Breckenridge said, he held fast to his. The only thing he ever wanted to do was to be a cop.
On the advice of his elders in blue, Breckenridge headed to the Marine Corps recruiting station on White Street in Red Bank after graduating from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional in 1976. Told he was too short, he went next door and joined the Army, where he spent three years as an undercover investigator in the military police in Germany, working narcotics.
Back home, he spent the next five years splitting his time as a Fair Haven special officer — a fill-in position — and a “loss prevention manager” for the Steinbach department store chain. A brief stint as a detective working drug stakeouts in the Monmouth County Prosecutors’ sealed it: the only job he really wanted, he said, was one that came with a Fair Haven police department uniform, he said.
Breckenridge, now 57, realized his dream in 1985, and began a rise through the ranks, with a promotion to detective, in 1996. That was the work he’s found the most rewarding, he said.
“You get to solve a case,” he said. “You stay with it.”
His biggest case was a murder — but one that happened deep in the woods of North Carolina, not Fair Haven. After arresting a 13-year-old boy, William Purvis, for stealing a computer in 2000, Breckenridge said, he began looking into the troubled background of the boy and his sister, who’d been left in the borough with their grandmother a year earlier, after their mother died of an apparent suicide.
But on calling police in the tiny town of Vass, Breckenridge learned the children’s father had disappeared before the mother’s death.
Breckenridge was there in Vass when the body of 57-year-old Paul Purvis was unearthed in the woods. He’d been shot to death. William Purvis was later convicted in the killing, Breckenridge said.
In 2005, Breckenridge took over the job Jakubecy once held, moving into a small office at the the police station, which was formerly the Fisk Street School, where he began his schooling as a kindergartener. “I started in this building, and I’m finishing in this building,” he said.
Breckenridge, who also served as chief of the volunteer fire department in 1996, and his wife Kathy have three adult children: Whitney, a social studies teacher at Red Bank Regional: Tyler, who works at Eventide restaurant in Sea Bright; and Darryl Jr., who’s the recreation director in Fair Haven.
As he entered his 30th year as a department full-timer, Breckenridge said, he already had retirement on his mind. But the suicide in March of Robert Henne, a young department special, was the breaking point, he said. “I’m done,” he told himself at the scene, he recalled.
It was the second suicide by one of his officers: the previous was by Councilman John Lehnert in 2010.
“Those were probably the two worst times in my career,” Breckenridge said.
Breckenridge’s retirement takes effect October 1, and no, he said, he won’t be getting an exorbitant payout for unused sick time: just $15,000. On Monday night, the borough council promoted Joe McGovern from lieutenant to captain; he’ll be the acting chief effective with Breckenridge’s departure until a new chief is appointed. According to the Asbury Park Press Data Universe website, Breckenridge earned a salary of $132,000 last year.
He declined to disclose his next career choice, except to say that it will be law-enforcement related. He’ll also remain in the Fair Haven area, he said.
A retirement dinner for Breckenridge is scheduled for Thursday, October 15 at the Raven and the Peach. For more information, contact Detective Stephen Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or Whitney Breckenridge at email@example.com.