John Zotollo, whose 14-year tenure in the Saddle Brook Detective Bureau has involved such highlights as solving the state's first Amber Alert case in 2003, contributing to the multi-jurisdictional investigation into a murder-for-hire plot allegedly hatched by a Colorado Springs man and serving as the department's lead in its pursuit of state and national accreditation, transitioned this week into a new role as tour commander of one of the department's three patrol squads.
Zotollo, who was officially promoted to Lieutenant on Monday, has assumed the role vacated by Lt. James Martinelli, who retired in July after 27 years of service to the department.
“I’m very grateful to Mayor [Karen] Chamberlain for the opportunity to further my career and to Chief [Bob] Kugler for having the confidence in me," Zotollo said. "I’ll miss being a detective a great deal, however, I’m looking forward to the challenge of my new position. We have good people in the Patrol Division, both in rank and patrol officers. I’ll learn a lot from Patrol Capt. [Robert] McNally, the other Lieutenants, as well as the Sergeants and patrol officers."
An 18-year veteran of the force, Zotollo was assigned to the Detective Bureau in 1998, and promoted to Sergeant in 2006. In his capacity as Detective Sergeant, Zotollo served as the Internal Affairs Officer, Property/Evidence Officer, Law Enforcement Accreditation Manager, Juvenile Detective and as a member of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Narcotics Task Force.
He said he's proudest of his successful pursuit of state and national accreditation for the department.
"As the accreditation manager, I played a role in our department obtaining national accreditation recognition by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and state accreditation by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP)," he said. "My part in this achievement means a lot to me because it has a great benefit to the entire police department, as well as the township of Saddle Brook."
Zotollo was born in Hackensack and raised in Saddle Brook, where most of his family still lives to this day. He and his wife, Brooke, and their two young sons, Tommy and Jake, relocated a few years ago due to his wife's job, but the family plans to return to Saddle Brook in the near future, Zotollo said.
After graduating from Saddle Brook High School in 1984, Zotollo received a scholarship to play baseball at Tusculum College in Tennessee where he went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Education. In his late teens, the star center fielder received two invitation-only tryouts with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but ultimately returned home after college to begin his teaching career.
While pursuing teaching, Zotollo said his interest was piqued after he noticed the Saddle Brook Police Department was hiring.
“While working toward my degree in Education, I also always had a desire to be a police officer," Zotollo explained. "When I noticed there may be an opportunity with the Saddle Brook Police Department, I decided to take the police exam. I felt it would be a great opportunity to serve the community where I lived and grew up."
He joined the department as a patrolman in 1995 and the rest is history.
Having come full circle to now rejoin the Patrol Division as tour commander, Zotollo said he's looking forward to growing into his new role while still keeping tabs with the investigations aspect of the department.
“This would hopefully enable me to be a better officer and better tour commander in the Patrol Division," he said. "I’m looking forward to being a part of the progress of the Saddle Brook PD moving forward."