Lt. Robert Garofalo will take over as the township’s new chief of police.

Lieutenant Robert Garofalo will become the West Windsor Police Department’s fourth chief of police in July, succeeding outgoing chief Joe Pica, a 43-year officer who joined the department six years after its founding in 1968. Pica announced his retirement on March 1.

Garofalo, 50, has served as a lieutenant in both the administrative and detective divisions, and since his hiring in 1989 he has played a central role in transitioning the department into the digital era.

Mayor Shing-fu Hsueh, who acts as the township’s director of public safety, called Garofalo “a great fit” for the community, adding, “our long-standing tradition of organizational structure will continue seamlessly under his new leadership.”

The chief-to-be grew up in Monroe Township. His father recently retired from tailoring, and his mother worked as a bank teller.

A criminal justice major at Monmouth University, Garofalo was hired as a patrol officer by West Windsor in 1989. After six years as a patrol officer he mopved to the administrative side, where he assisted with various technology efforts.

“When I first started we didn’t have 9-1-1. You knew the seven-digit police number and called it,” Garofalo said. “Basically we were computerizing our dispatch and record management, as well as developing the 9-1-1 system.”

Computer forensics was an area Garofalo became heavily involved with after being named an administrative sergeant. He assisted the detective bureau with technology related cases such as email and data fraud.

Ten years ago Garofalo and his family moved to West Windsor. He has three kids and his wife is a homemaker and volunteers helping homeless animals. Garofalo says he does not have much spare time, but when he does he enjoys photographing homeless animals at animal shelters to assist with adoption efforts.

As a township resident, Garofalo praises the community. “We have great people here. I think it matches the fantastic people we have in our police department,” Garofalo said. “We have the officers, dispatchers, who are often forgotten, and the record keepers. Every town has great officers, my experience is our personnel take it to the highest level.”

Continuing and building on the department’s strong relationship with the community is a key goal. Garofalo started the department’s social media initiative, also known as Operation Lighthouse.

“That is the way for our police department to be more involved on a real time basis,” Garofalo said. “Through that we have activated Nixle, Facebook, and Twitter. All that combined gave us exposure to our residents and gave them exposure to us.”

The West Windsor police department currently has 47 officers, though Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh has requested the hiring of a 48th officer in this year’s municipal budget. An addition would be the first expansion in more than 10 years. There is the possibility of a 49th officer in light of projected growth.