Memorial Day 2018
True Blue: Hometown Boy McQuillen Becomes Police Chief
By Linda Dougherty
Thomas McQuillen, after being sworn in as chief of police, poses with (from left) Mayor Leonard Desiderio, daughters Adyson, 11, and Alyssa, 7, wife Maria, and parents Joan and Francis McQuillen.
Native son Thomas McQuillen was sworn in as Sea Isle City’s police chief at a ceremony during the March 27 City Council meeting.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio administered the oath of office to McQuillen in the Council Chambers at City Hall. McQuillen, who succeeds retiring Chief Tom D’Intino, steadily worked his way up through the ranks of the police department to assume its highest position. He also will oversee the Emergency Medical Services Division, Beach Patrol, Office of Emergency Management and Animal Control.
McQuillen received the unanimous endorsement of City Council.
“I am certain that Chief McQuillen will maintain the high level of excellence that the Sea Isle City Police Department has long possessed,” Desiderio said at the ceremony. “I have every confidence in his abilities.”
McQuillen was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Maria, daughters Adyson, 11, and Alyssa, 7, as well as his parents, Joan and Frank McQuillen.
As he has spent nearly his entire life in Sea Isle City, McQuillen is well-positioned to handle its unique needs, having witnessed the annual transition from a quiet winter community to a bustling summer resort for many years.
“It was a great experience growing up in Sea Isle City,” says McQuillen, whose childhood home was on 47th Street. “Sea Isle had a small-town feel when I was a boy. I can remember walking home from school and my mother having lunch ready for me. It was such a great childhood. Everyone kept an eye on the neighbors’ kids, and you could be sure your mother would get a call if you did anything wrong.”
As he got older, McQuillen held several summer jobs in town, including one at the old Funtown Arcade. After graduating from Ocean City High School in 1990, he went into the Army because, he said, “I wasn’t ready for college.”
When he left the Army in 1993, he began a summer job with the Sea Isle Police as a Class II officer. Typically, Class II officers write parking tickets, handle disorderly-conduct calls, and participate in crowd control; they do not carry firearms. McQuillen became a full-time officer in 1999; he was promoted to sergeant in 2009, to lieutenant in 2012, and to captain in 2015.
During the early days of his career, Tom McQuillen patrols the Promenade in a police jeep.
He notes that Sea Isle can present some challenging situations for police in the summer, as the population swells from about 2,000 in the offseason to between 80,000 and 100,000, with the Fourth of July weekend being especially busy.
“It’s quite a difference,” McQuillen says. “In the winter, it can be a very long shift for an officer, with not much going on. In the summer, it’s one call after another, a very quick shift.”
One of his more memorable experiences happened on a winter night near 50th Street and Central Avenue. A young couple, the wife pregnant, had a rental property but no phone. She went into labor and walked several blocks to the nearby 7-Eleven to call 911 from a pay phone. The Sea Isle City police transported to her to Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital (now Cape Regional Medical Center) in Cape May Court House.
McQuillen also remembers one winter day when an eroding bulkhead threatened Sea Isle real estate. “I was just hoping the houses wouldn’t fall into the water,” he recalls. “We never know what’s going to happen. We work as quickly, safely and efficiently as we can.”
And, he says, he believes working hard throughout his life will serve him well in his new position as chief of police.
“No matter what age you are, you don’t know what can come of it later in life,” he says. “I’ve always believed in doing my best and having a good work ethic. And it’s always been the goal of my career to get to this position.”
McQuillen is also a valued member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sea Isle.
“Tom is a great family man and parishioner,” says Marie Peltier, president of the Parish Council. “He attends Mass every Sunday with his wife and daughters, and whenever we have an event he’s always a major player; for instance, he helped organize an event that helped bring families together. Tom is young and vibrant and I’m very glad he’s our new police chief.”
Says City Council President Mary Tighe: “City Council has been well aware of Chief McQuillen’s leadership abilities as he came up through the ranks, and we look forward to the continued success of our police department with him at the helm. He worked his way up through the ranks, and he’s seen a lot. He’s been very involved in the community. We’re also looking forward to some of the ideas he has for our policing programs.”
To that end, McQuillen indicates that he plans to implement some changes and improvements.
“I want us to get out and become more engaged in the community,” he says. “We kind of got away from that a little bit. I like community-oriented policing and I want people to know us. When people don’t know us, that’s a problem. We don’t just write tickets and make arrests. We should be building and developing a relationship with the community.
“One way to do this is to have public meet-and-greets at local businesses. Some people are intimidated and have never been inside the police headquarters before. I want to have public information sessions where people can express their concerns, and we can provide easy answers for them. I also want us to engage with the business community and open up the lines of communication. Everything is predicated on communication with the public. And internally, I want to boost morale and let officers feel like they are part of the process. I want to show them we care, because we do.”
At his swearing-in ceremony, McQuillen told the large crowd that he will always do what is best for Sea Isle City.
“I stand before you today to make a promise to you,” he said. “We may not always agree on ideas, methods, or the changes we will make, but I hope you each know me well enough to know that I only have all of our best interests in mind. There’s no other motivation. I simply want what’s best for all of us in Sea Isle.”