Ron Patterson remembers fondly the sense of enjoyment he took in coming to work each day as a young officer with the Fair Lawn Police Department before escalating inter-departmental strife boiled over into lawsuits and landed the department's dirty laundry in the news.
In his new role as Acting Captain, the 18-year force veteran said he's hoping to restore the department's dignity and the morale of its officers by improving communication and ironing out differences between the force's rank-and-file members and its upper brass.
"I want to bring back pride to the police department," Patterson said. "When I first started here I used to love coming to work. I think that’s been lost over the years with certain people. Now it becomes more of a job."
Patterson, who served as the department's accreditation manager for the past two years before sliding into internal affairs following his April promotion, said he misses being on the road and interacting with the public, but values the influence he can have on the department in an administrative role.
"You have a lot of people who come in here, as with any position, and they always say, 'We can do better, we can do better, we can do better,’ but they don’t put themselves out there to move up in that position to make a difference and make a change," he said. "That’s one thing I always wanted to try and do. I just wanted to be that person who not only says 'We can do this better,' but now get into that position where I can change things and make things better.”
Patterson, who grew up in Fair Lawn and currently lives in Cranford, said he always envisioned a career in law enforcement.
"I always had that desire to help people," he said. "I think that’s why a lot of people get involved, as a fireman or an EMT or a doctor, it’s that calling to help people. You want to make a difference."
After graduating from Bergen Catholic High School in 1989, Patterson spent four years at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, where he studied criminal justice and history.
He was hired as an officer in Fair Lawn in 1995, went through the police academy and has worked for the borough ever since.
Patterson said he's confident he'll succeed in his new role as Administrative Division Commander, replacing now-Interim Chief Glen Cauwels.
"I look over my career and I was successful as an officer, successful as a sergeant, successful as a lieutenant in patrols, successful as an accreditation manager and I plan to continue that success downstairs in the detective bureau working with the officers down there," he said.