The Barnegat Police Department opened its doors as a full-time police department on July 3rd, 1973 with a compliment of three officers. Heading the first department was Chief William Brazzel. Chief Brazzel worked for 12 years with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. before coming to Barnegat. The first police department was located on West Bay Avenue near Route 9 on the second floor of what was then the municipal building. That building was originally constructed in 1910 as Barnegat’s first Post Office.
By 1977, the town’s population had grown to 8,000 and the department had grown to eight patrolmen, two lieutenants, a captain, and a detective. In 1979, Edward Smith, a veteran of the Woodbridge police department was appointed Chief of Police. In 1981, the department moved to its current location at 900 West Bay Avenue. Other than a small addition, the building that housed the department’s 14 officers in 1981 is the same one that houses the 44 officers who work for the department today.
In 2002, Sarah Girgenti was hired as the department’s first female officer. The next two years saw the addition of three more female officers giving the department the highest percentage of female officers in Ocean County.
In 2005, Joseph Manger was appointed Chief of Police. Manger was also a Woodbridge veteran before joining the Barnegat force in 1975. Manger started the Detective Bureau within the Barnegat Police Department as the first detective and created many of the processes and procedures still in place today. With his appointment as Chief, Manger represented the first change in leadership for the department in over two decades. Manger engineered the first major restructuring of the department’s organizational structure since its inception and was the driving force behind the professionalization of the police department through the pursuit of accreditation.
In December of 2006, Arthur P. Drexler was appointed Chief of Police. Drexler’s tenure saw the achievement of CALEA International Accreditation and the transition to a community policing philosophy.
On February 1, 2017, Richard J. Dugan became the 5th Chief of Police in agency history while in his 30th year of service. Dugan joined the agency in 1987. He served in many roles throughout his career including Patrol Sergeant, lead firearms instructor, Patrol Division Commander, and Operations Commander. He was also a founding member of the agency’s SWAT team. During his time as Captain, Dugan headed the Professional Standards Unit and was responsible for modernizing the agency’s approach to professional accountability.