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Police Department History

On February 20, 1700, what is now known as Hopewell Township was still part of Burlington County. 1600 acres of land were purchased in 1714 by William Trent, a portion of which was briefly called Hopewell and was formally set off to Hunterdon County, upon its creation on March 11, 1714. Trenton Township was formed out of this estate on June 3, 1719, later to become the City of Trenton. Hopewell Township was incorporated by Royal charter on March 1, 1755, and was re-incorporated by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 21, 1798, as one of the state's initial group of 104 townships. Hopewell Township became part of Mercer County at its creation on February 22, 1838.

Hopewell Township includes the location now known as Washington Crossing along the east side of the Delaware River to which George Washington and the Continental Army crossed from Pennsylvania. Once in Hopewell Township, the army marched south to Trenton on Christmas 1776, to fight the Battle of Trenton. Today, Washington Crossing State Park commemorates this important milestone in American history.

police photo
police photo

It is believed that the Hopewell Township Police Department started part-time in the 1920’s or early 1930’s. The first Chief of Police was Clifford Snook. Chief Snook’s brother, Russel A. Snook, later became the fourth Colonel and superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

The 1970’s saw vast changes in the Hopewell Township Police Department. In 1970 the department was a part time operation consisting of the first full time Chief, Matthew Maloney, and a variety of part time patrolmen and special officers. In the early part of the decade the New Jersey State Police, who had a barracks located on Rt. 31, providing full time police services to the township, decided that they would begin charging municipalities for police coverage. As a result, in 1972 plans began to be made for a full time township police department.

Around the clock patrol began on July 1, 1974. Prior to the 24-hour coverage, officers would “flip the switch” at midnight. “Flipping the switch” would cause all incoming phone calls to be transferred to the State Police barracks. The members of this first full time police department were Chief Maloney, Lieutenant Henry Way, twelve patrolmen and five dispatchers, one of which also served as a secretary, records clerk and police matron. 

The department also provided dispatching services for the Pennington Police Department, the three valley fire companies and first aid units and, beginning in 1976, the Hopewell Borough Police Department. By the end of the decade the department saw the promotion of five officers to the rank of sergeant, with a total of eight patrolmen.

In late 1982 Hopewell Township and Hopewell Borough reached an agreement on a contract in which the township police department would provide full police services to the borough from 1983 through 1986. 1982 also saw Chief Matthew Maloney retire, with Robert Ferrarin succeeding him as head of the department. As a result, the Hopewell Borough Police Department was disbanded with two of its officers subsequently being sworn in as township patrolmen. Hopewell Borough’s contracting of township police services has proven to be advantageous for both municipalities and continues to this day.

1987 saw the department had outgrown the municipal building “lower level”, and moved to the current station. The updated headquarters included a two car sally-port, three holding cells and a secure prisoner processing area. As calls for service increased, so did the size of the department. By the end of the decade the department had 23 sworn officers.

During the 1990’s the department realized many changes, including a growth in size to 31 sworn officers and eight civilian employees. With the retirement of Chief Robert Ferrarin in 1995 Michael Chipowsky became Chief.

The 90’s also saw a huge population growth in the township with the addition of the Brandon Farms development in the south east portion of the township. One of the special details the department initiated during the 90’s was the bicycle patrol unit. In addition to using bicycles designed for on and off road riding officers assigned to the unit had access to an all-terrain vehicle which provided them additional mobility in the event of an emergency in remote sections of the township or borough. The 90’s found the department using computer aided dispatching and report writing which increased efficiency. Also implemented was the statewide 9-1-1 service which resulted in the department being designated as the primary answering point for Hopewell Valley.

The 2000’s saw the department’s strength swell to 36 sworn officers, including 5 sergeants and a captain. There was another change in Chiefs with the retirement of Chief Chipowsky and the Promotion of Captain Meyer to Chief in 2006. The outdated department patch was retired and replaced with one that better represented the area’s history as the “Turning Point of the Revolution”. Technological improvements included updated Mobile Data Terminals, GPS vehicle locators and digital in-car video recorders.

The 2010’s brought more changes in personnel, technology and the township demographic. Capital Health Systems Hopewell Campus hospital was completed next to the Merrill Lynch campus (now Bank of America). The department’s manpower reduced to 30 sworn officers. In 2014 Chief Meyer retired and passed the torch to Chief Maloney. The department began using Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) and Body Worn Cameras. Also, the department became an accredited organization on March 9, 2017 by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJASCOP) and remains an accredited organization to this date.   

The 2020’s ushered in additional changes to the department. The retirement of Chief Maloney, appointment of a temporary police director, and the return to a Chief of Police. James Rosso was promoted to Chief of Police in 2022, becoming the sixth Chief. A new direction and vision were implemented that included increased community engagements, transparency, and technological advancements.

An administrative sergeant position was created, one that oversees accreditation, training, and the detective bureau. The police department also made a change to the uniforms (outer carry ballistic vests) and a new design for our patrol vehicles. In 2022 the Hopewell Township Police Department received a $600,000 grant from the State of New Jersey which will be utilized to upgrade the department’s aging communications center. The Hopewell Township Police Department began a Drone Unit and Community Relations Unit.

Today, Chief James Rosso leads an accredited department of approximately thirty-two (32) well trained and professional police officers. The department also includes six (6) public safety dispatchers and several other support staff employees.