Spotswood police chief announces hiring of first female officer

SPOTSWOOD–Becoming the first female officer appointed to the Spotswood Police Department, Patrolwoman Brittany Johnson has been hired as the police force’s 25th member.

Chief of Police Michael Zarro said Johnson was hired on April 6 and is currently enrolled in the Field Training Officer (FTO) program.

“She has very little experience; Johnson came from the Allenhurst Police Department [where] her experience was as a Class II Special Officer but very limited,” Zarro said.

Zarro said Johnson went to attend a special session of a Police Training Commission course offered at the Monmouth County Police Academy, which is the equivalent of a full-time academy. Now that Johnson has been hired by the department she gets immediately waived by the New Jersey Police Training Commission as a full-time officer, he said.

On April 20, the Borough Council adopted an ordinance amending the municipal code to hire a new police officer.

Zarro said Sgt. John Pfieffer and Patrolman Paul Silvestro are out on leave due to serious injuries.

The first officer’s injury, Zarro said, “is a residual effect from a near head-on collision with then-Patrolman John Pfeiffer, who is now a sergeant. He was hit almost head-on on Manalapan Road many years ago and he suffered a pretty serious shoulder injury. This is now his third surgery and now the anchor screws into the rotator cuff have pulled out. He is now going to have a possible fourth surgery.”

Zarro said to be a realist, Pfeiffer might not make it back from this injury because it’s recurring. He said Pfieffer will have a fourth surgery on the same affected area.

“[In October 2019] Patrolman Paul Silvestro was rear-ended on Helmetta Boulevard which forced the trunk of his vehicle into the rear of his front seat right behind his headrest. … Ptl. Silvestro has very serious injuries including a possible hip surgery, he has been out since that date,” Zarro said. “That has caused a double manpower overtime on two shifts that is compounded by the fact that Pfeiffer is sergeant, by contract the senior patrolman gets elevated to sergeant’s pay. This causes a third prong overtime issue, I call it a bleed because it is a complete bleed of manpower resources for the police department.”

When interviewing candidates, Zarro said Johnson was one of the department’s top candidates due to her doing well during the interview process.

Zarro said Johnson is currently on week four of the eight-week FTO program. Once she completes the program she will start as a full-time officer.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being diverse and this is part of being diverse,” Zarro said. “We know what fits here in our selection process and from 28 years of enforcement experience, I know what’s going to work here and what’s not going to work. [Johnson] interviewed and she’s been nothing but spectacular.”

With the police department on an emergency schedule because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Zarro said he anticipates Johnson will go on active duty on June 6 or so, once the department goes back to its normal schedule.

“[Johnson] wanted to be a Spotswood officer because she liked the way things worked as opposed to where she came from. So she wanted it so bad she sat at the desk as a dispatcher even though she was an officer,” Zarro said. “She learned the whole communication center, hopeful she would get a shot at being a police officer.

“I asked [Johnson] for homework to know the streets and know where she’s going. Part of law enforcement is half the battle is knowing where you’re going and figuring it out when you get there … and she came to work an hour early and drove around the streets on her own without being prompted,” Zarro continued. “I can’t be more proud of anybody that would do something like that and show that kind of dedication.”

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.