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May 2021

Berkeley Welcomes New Police Chief, Body Cameras

By Eric San Juan
After making history a decade ago as Ocean County’s first female Chief of Police, Chief Karin DiMichele has retired from her position as the head of the Berkeley Township Police Department.
On May 1, Deputy Police Chief Kevin Santucci became Chief of Police Kevin Santucci, 20 years after first joining the force, marking the start of a new chapter for the force.
Santucci began his police career the same way many local officers do, serving as a seasonal officer in Seaside Park in 1999 before being hired as a patrolman in Ocean Gate. In 2001, he was hired in Berkeley and has risen through the ranks ever since.
Santucci told WOBM radio that though he becomes chief during a time when police and public interactions are receiving high scrutiny, he believes he can preside over good relations between the two.
“It's not easy to overcome when somebody's done something wrong, we get labeled as a group when there are a lot of honest, good, hardworking men and women in law enforcement and hopefully people that have those positive interactions continue to spread them,” Santucci said. “I would ask my guys, my men and women, to treat the people they deal with as you would want your own family treated and that's kind of how I try to portray myself.”
Santucci replaces DiMichele, who became Berkeley’s first female officer in 1995. She was a Sergeant by 2001 and a Lieutenant by 2005. She went on to achieve the highest score in the state on the promotional exam to be chief, setting the stage for her to rise through the ranks yet again.
Among DiMichele’s innovations were leading Berkeley to be the first town in Ocean County, and one of the first in the state, to implement police worn body cameras.
That innovation continues to be in use today.
Police Body Cameras To Get Upgrade
At the township’s council’s April meeting, officials accepted a grant that will allow the force to upgrade the cameras police have been wearing.
“Unfortunately, since they are used every day they are failing very quickly, so this will be something we will need going forward,” Mayor Carmen Amato said. “With this grant we can update everything and have the best equipment on the road.”
The cameras are being supplied by Axxon, with funding coming in part through a state grant – appropriate, since police body cameras are now mandated in New Jersey.
Both Amato and Santucci said they’ve gone a long way towards protecting the interests of both the public and the police.
“The complaints against police officers have significantly gone down because once the person bringing a complaint against the officer, we say you know what, the officer’s wearing a body camera, we’ll just go to the camera and see what happened,” Amato said.
“It has resolved a lot of issues,” Santucci agreed. “It makes for an easier investigation and … more accountability for everyone.”
Councilman James Byrnes said there has been a lot of focus on police in the county recently, but “All they’re worried about is people’s civil rights.”
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