Twenty years ago, Princeton Township Ptl. Mark Emann was dispatched to a Township home on a call made after an elderly man had experienced a medical emergency. Ptl. Emann arrived on the scene with a first aid bag, asked the man's wife where her husband was located, and when she replied "in the master bedroom," he headed directly to that room without even hesitating to ask for directions.
After the emergency was averted (the man turned out to be fine), the wife asked Ptl. Emann how he knew where the master bedroom was.
"I said, 'I used to play in this house with the kids of the former owners,' so I knew right where to go,"
Mark Emann, a 29-year veteran of the Princeton Township Police Department, was made chief on Monday the eighth chief in the department's history crowning the force with not only one of its own, but one of Princeton's own.
Make that two of Princeton's own.
Robert Buchanan, a 27-year veteran of the force and also a Township native, completed a rise of his own by being named captain.
For the last 18 months, both men had the conspicuous tag "acting" attached to the fronts of their titles, but on Monday, their ranks were solidified, and judging from the faces at Monday's ceremony, the 31-member department became even more unified. As the rank and file saluted the two, and as the capacity crowd at Township Hall stood and applauded, it was clear that there was a lot more going on than the appointments of two long-serving officers.
"It was completion. It was the closure of one chapter and the opening of another in the department's history," Chief Emann said.
Of course, he was pointing to the new administrative "triangle" formed by himself, Capt. Buchanan, and Lt. Michael Henderson, but he was also referring to a somewhat tumultuous two-year span for the department.
In 2005, an independent report submitted by Princeton Township contractor Carrol Buracker & Associates was released, providing a top-to-bottom review of the police department's treatment of new officers, interview processes, and rules, regulations, and procedures, while recommending several cutbacks in the department. Since the release of that report, four officer positions have been removed through attrition, creating a sense of unease throughout the department.
Shortly after the report was released, then-Chief Anthony Gaylord entered a paid early retirement that only became official last Thursday. His official retirement, along with the two appointments, has officers looking up.
"We had a little bit of a shakeup with the Buracker report I think that's good for a department," said Chief Emann Tuesday, sitting in his new office at Township Hall, which features his signature décor of model replicas and pictures of vintage cars, along with pictures of his wife, Jo, and daughter Jessica, a student at Penn State University.
"Sometimes it takes a good shakeup of what you have and what you stand to lose," Chief Emann, 49, said. "Last night, it was evident that there was a positive feeling throughout the room, and I couldn't have been more proud."
"On a community level," Capt. Buchanan added, "it was just very refreshing to see how many people throughout the community and the state were there.
"It means a lot to me, and it means a lot to the department," he said.
Most of the department's officers were on hand for the brief presentation, along with former Chief Gaylord, Borough Chief Anthony Federico, former Borough Chief Chuck Davall, Princeton University Public Safety Chief Steven Healy, and members of local FBI chapters, as well as representatives from other police departments throughout the state.
Both Chief Emann and Capt. Buchanan, 52, expressed similar goals concerning the creation of a more "professional" department on the way to receiving full accreditation from the state. "We're moving head with that, putting our policies and procedures in order. That's a definite priority," Capt. Buchanan said.
Princeton native Buchanan, who now resides in Ewing with his wife Margaret, and two sons, Peter, 16, and Cody, 13, said that while officers who are not from the area have quickly become members of the community, the fact that the department boasts 11 officers who are Princeton natives is worth noting. Chief Emann agreed, saying that hiring officers from the community "gives them the opportunity to give something back."
Further, in a somewhat coincidental twist, it was Capt. Buchanan, who, in 1980, took the place of Chief Emann's father, Ptl. Walter Emann upon his retirement. "That was really kind of neat," Capt. Buchanan said.
The new chief and captain grew up together, graduated from Princeton High School, went to Trenton State College together, and now, following a tough chapter in department history, have the opportunity to reinvigorate the Princeton Township Police Department from more than one local perspective.
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