Plainsboro Police Chief Fred Tavener

After working for several months to hammer out the details, Plainsboro Township finally has a contract with its top law enforcement officer.

Fred Tavener, who has been operating under the title “acting chief” since he was appointed earlier this year, was officially named chief of the Plainsboro Police Department by the Township Committee this month.

Tavener replaces former Chief Guy Armour, who retired in February.

Sources say the holdup over Tavener’s official appointment revolved around the resolution of terms of employment, including salary.

Tavener declined to be interviewed for this article, according to township administrator Anthony Cancro.

“The chief believes there has been enough coverage on his appointment and respectfully declines a story,” said Cancro in an email to The News.

Tavener joined the Plainsboro police in 1997 when he was hired as a patrol officer. In 2001, he was assigned to the traffic division where he became involved in various traffic improvement initiatives.

Tavener was promoted to corporal in 2005, and patrol sergeant in 2007. In 2010, he was assigned to supervise the traffic division where he implemented numerous community and traffic improvement programs.

In 2011, Tavener was promoted to lieutenant where he oversaw the special services division, including the detective and traffic bureaus, and served as internal affairs commander.

Earlier this year, The News’ reporter Siddharth Mucchal interviewed deputy mayor Neil Lewis, liaison to the police department, regarding Tavener’s appointment and the township’s process to find a new chief. An edited version of that interview appears below.

WWP: What process did the township go through to pick the new chief?

Lewis: This is something that the township committee and township administrator review in terms of appropriate candidates. Ultimately, the decision making process goes to, “are we going to go to the outside, or are we going to use inside applications for this position.”

Over the past times that I’ve been here (more than 25 years), we have usually gone to someone in the system who has gone up the ranks and who is familiar with the procedures and the process.

Chief Tavener has a stellar record. He’s gone through the ranks, came all the way from traffic, into the various other divisions that he’s worked in.

He’s been an internal affairs commander, which gives him a very special exposure within the areas that are necessary to provide leadership.

We were very lucky to have a number of qualified internal candidates for the position. We happen to have three lieutenants within the structure that’s been created over the years. We also have a series of additional people who have been promoted through the ranks.

In February, we swore in a new lieutenant to replace Chief Tavener, and we have two new sergeants, and two new corporals, which allows for growth, development, and increasing levels of responsibility within our police department. It gives us a really fine training environment, and you get to really understand who your police officers are, their capabilities and we have very heavily qualified people that come through the ranks.

When we have a brand new position and you’re pursuing applications, you have written tests, you have physical tests and preliminary interviews and background checks.

That’s all for the early stages, but these are people that we generally have some familiarity with. When it comes down to discussion and review and potential for the future, how people are viewed by the township, the final selection for chief is made by the township committee as part of the final review process.

Chief Tavener’s got an excellent understanding of the background, from his academic training and his on-the-job training in all areas of policing.

He’s got a master’s of science in administration, he’s a certified public manager, he’s got a wonderful background.

While we did go through a significant review process, he was ultimately the one that we went with. We have an outstanding command team that’s in place now, and we have three lieutenants that are there, providing that next level of command, each with their own areas of responsibility.

Chief Tavener’s done an excellent job through the years and we’re delighted with the promotion, to make sure we have continuing excellence with someone who is sensitive to the needs of the community, needs of the department, and can interact effectively with elected officials in the structure that’s there.”

WWP: Why did Chief Armour decide to retire?

Lewis: He retired because he had a total of 27-28 years. When we gave him the position, we hoped he would stay with us for a minimum of 5 years, because people who reach this level within the structure are generally coming close to 25 years of service, and Guy had completed 25 years of service to the township and had done a fantastic job.

We had him for 7-8 years, which was an important part of keeping stability within the system. We have a really good record that we’ve achieved, we’re high on the rank of police departments in the state.

We’ve been certified and gone through internal and external reviews, and they’ve been highly outstanding in their ability to meet the requirements in protecting the community and interacting with the community. We’ve interacted with the community, and have engaged with the schools, and the broad cross-sections in Plainsboro.

WWP: When will Tavener be officially named chief?

Lewis: We’re working to complete his contract. Chief Armour had his tenure expire at the end of January, so technically that’s when Tavener moved into the position. He’s been acting chief for us and we had an early decision so he could be part of the training program so he can take on the full responsibility as police chief.

As soon as we finish the final contract, he will be officially sworn in, but we’re going through the contract with the township. Chief Tavener is our acting chief only because of the contract.

WWP: What would you like to see the police department do so it can continue to develop. What are some programs it can focus on?

Lewis: We have a very high emphasis on community policing as an important part of making our police department, an integral part of our day-to-day activities with all our residents.

We expect that to be an important part of maintaining good community relations, im addition to outstanding relations within a well-oiled police department.

WWP: Do you have anything else to add about Chief Tavener?

Lewis: I’ve known him for virtually the entire time he’s been in the police department, so I’m very comfortable with him being selected as our chief.

I look forward to an outstanding tenure under Chief Tavener because of his knowledge and his ability to interact with the police department, as well as within the community, and his emphasis on continuing strong community relations.

I think the community relations program in Plainsboro has been an extremely important one, and as we move into this next year of his tenure as chief, we look forward to seeing how Plainsboro will continue to keep its position as a leading community, and also having a leading department in the state.

When we have an opening for a police position, we get hundreds of applications, which we feel is a very good indication of the reputation of our department within the police community, and that Plainsboro was high on the list amongst the best communities to live in, work in, and have families raised, and we’re really proud of that.