LINDEN, NJ — After 39 years with the Linden Police Department, Linden Chief of Police James Schulhafer is bidding farewell to his beloved police force.
Schulhafer spent his entire career in law enforcement with LPD. Hired in 1977 along with 15 other recruits, Schulhafer made rank quickly and was promoted to sergeant in 1981, lieutenant in 1986, and captain in 1988. As captain, Schulhafer served in the Patrol Division, Internal Affairs, and administration before his promotion to chief in 2013.
Schulhafer attended several prestigious schools throughout his career, including the FBI National Academy, the Penn State Executive Development Program and the NYPD school for Internal Affairs, along with many others. During the 1990s, Schulhafer attended school at night to earn a master’s degree from Seton Hall University.
Schulhafer established the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau and served as its first commander, served as chairman of a committee that combined and civilianized the dispatch functions of the Linden police and fire departments, and has served as the municipal emergency management coordinator for the past seven years.
Schulhafer told LocalSource that his long career with the LPD has been a rewarding one. “Some of my most rewarding moments as chief came as I watched other officers grow professionally and get promoted or earn assignments to specialized units,” said Schulhafer. “It was also gratifying to preside over award ceremonies that honor officers for heroic jobs or other occasions where they went above the call of duty. Just this year we had two police officers honored by the 200 Club of Union County for their actions in apprehending a bank robber.”
According to Schulhafer, the LPD continues to set the standard in upgrading its practices in law enforcement. “The department has recently undertaken the challenge of becoming an accredited agency,” Schulhafer said. “When completed, this will ensure that we are following established best practices in many different areas. This process will also involve physical upgrades to the department’s infrastructure to ensure that areas, such as our property and evidence function, operates at the highest level of security as possible.”
Schulhafer said that earlier this year, Linden became one of the first police departments in Union County to provide officers with body cameras. “This will offer greater transparency and ensure that our officers are following established policies and procedures,” he said.
Schulhafer spoke about what he feels sets the LPD apart. “I think the strength of our department, without a doubt lies, in the quality of the people that we have here — officers, dispatchers and civilians,” said Schulhafer. “I have been here for 39 years, and yet they continue to impress me on a daily basis with their dedication and skill. There is not a day that goes by that they don’t do something good to better our community.
Police officers today are the most misunderstood and undervalued members in our society.”
According to Schulhafer, policing has changed dramatically in recent years. “The job of police officer has changed completely during my time in law enforcement,” Schulhafer said. “The streets have become much more violent and there are many more illegal guns being used. There are also many crimes today that have some connection to computers or other forms of technology. This has necessitated officers becoming much more computer savvy than ever before.”
Spending caps imposed on municipal budgets has, according to Schulhafer, also been a challenge. “One of the biggest challenges today for any police chief is figuring out how to provide the same or a higher level of service from previous years in spite of spending caps that are imposed on municipal budgets,” said Schulhafer. “The other concern is being able to provide for all of the additional training that is either required or otherwise needed to keep our officers fully prepared to meet the ever-increasing demands that are placed on them.”
Another challenge is the ever-increasing demand for proficiency in myriad areas of law enforcement. “Our officers today have to be proficient in not only things like firearms, CPR and first aid, but also domestic violence, active shooter situations, recognizing signs of diabetic shock and many, many other areas,” Schulhafer said. “And for any training to be effective, it must be continually reinforced. So the problem becomes this: How do we keep our patrol cars on the road when the officers must spend such an inordinate amount of time in training? This is one of the challenges that police administrators must address.”
Schulhafer said that he is looking forward to his retirement. “In retirement, I look forward to spending more time with family and completing some projects around the house that have been languishing for too long,” said Schulhafer. “I also hope to spend more time engaging in longtime hobbies such as boating, fishing and water skiing. I have one granddaughter already and I am looking forward to many more grandchildren to keep me busy.”
Schulhafer’s son, James E., is an officer with the LPD, while his other son, Kevin, is a firefighter with the Linden Fire Department.
Schulhafer will retire Sept. 1.