‘You can expect my very best’: Johnson takes oath as Dover police chief

Dover Police Chief Thomas A. Johnson Jr. is sworn in by Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen as Chief Johnson’s wife Janice holds the Bible at the Dover Police Department on Thursday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — While Thomas A. Johnson Jr.’s swearing-in ceremony as the city of Dover’s new police chief didn’t last very long on Thursday night — around 15 minutes — he said his list of goals in protecting the city’s citizens is a rather lengthy one.

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen swore in Mr. Johnson as the city’s 15th police chief in the Chief James L. Hutchison Public Assembly Room at the Dover Police Department and the city’s new chief was saluted with a standing ovation by a crowded room of onlookers.

“Some folks are kind of curious what they can expect,” Chief Johnson said. “The short answer that I can give you is you can expect my very best. I will be 100 percent focused on taking what I already know is an incredible organization and trying to figure out a way to make it even better.

“The bar has been set high. I will lead. I will make decisions. But everybody that comes into contact with me will know a couple of things: that there will always be honor around everything that I do and everything that we do, there will always be just actions and just decisions, there will be fairness and there will be a positive, forward-looking culture to be a part of if you choose to walk through those doors of the Dover Police Department and jump on board.”

Chief Johnson, a cross-trained firefighter and paramedic, had spent his career in law enforcement as an officer with the Upper Darby (Pennsylvania) Police Department since 1996.

During his time in Upper Darby, he served in the Patrol Unit, Detective Division, Administration Division and the Division of Training and Professional Standards.

New Chief Johnson’s last job before coming to Dover was reporting to Upper Darby’s Superintendent of Police, overseeing the Training and Professional Standards program. He was commanding officer of the Accident Investigations, Training Division and Internal Affairs units and SWAT Chief Hostage and Crisis Negotiator and has many leadership qualifications. He served as an adjunct professor at three colleges as well.

Family, friends and former co-workers of Thomas A. Johnson Jr. cheer after he was sworn in as the new Dover Police Chief at the Dover Police Department on Thursday.

Mayor Christiansen said Mr. Johnson’s wide spectrum of knowledge in law enforcement made him the right person for the job, which had been held by Acting Chief Tim Stump since May 17, 2019, after Marvin Mailey retired as Dover’s police chief.

“It was a difficult task to find the right person to lead this department to new heights of excellence,” said Mayor Christiansen. “Many candidates offered many glowing qualifications. At the end of the day, Thomas Johnson was chosen to lead the department to greater heights of esprit de corps, professionalism, excellence and community trust.

“He is a cop’s cop. Working together, he and his colleagues will continue to exceed their common goal of to ‘protect and serve.’”

Chief Johnson was joined by family members, former colleagues in law enforcement, many members of Dover’s Police Department and members of Dover City Council and city staff.

“This is an incredible moment in my life,” he said. “The list of folks that I need to say ‘Thank you’ to is impossible for me to accomplish in just one moment at one podium. Someone who has been in my position said, ‘Take a moment to try and make eye contact with everybody because there’s only one of these and you’ve got to try to absorb it.’

“I wish you could see what I see right now, because I see quality, I see service, I see dedication, I see commitment, I see family, I see all the things that anybody with any common sense would want to be around.”

Thomas A. Johnson Jr. stands with his wife Janice after he was sworn in as the new Dover police chief at the Dover Police Department on Thursday.

He started out by thanking his family members, with his mother, Ruth, coming first and then his wife, Janice, and children Tom III and Carly.

Both the mayor and the new police chief agreed that this is the beginning of a new era.

“Today as we move into the 95th year of excellence for the Dover Police Department, we begin a new chapter in the history of the city of Dover,” Mayor Christiansen said. “In 1925, the long line of gray, and blue, of men and women began the task of protecting our community and its citizens.

“Today, we are the best equipped and best trained police department in the State of Delaware with the most dedicated personnel both uniformed and civilian. Our clearance rate for major crimes is the envy for many departments in Delaware and across the nation. We are the gold standard.”

It is that sparkling reputation that caught the eye of Chief Johnson, who will be tasked with finding solutions to recent surges in the numbers of shootings in the capital city and nuisance crimes that have been taking place downtown.

“To the members of the Dover Police Department, the legacy that you have established already is unprecedented,” he said. “The mayor speaks from facts and well-known information. I was never able to find a reason why I should hesitate to say ‘yes’ if for some strange reason I was offered the opportunity to guide you into the next chapter of this police department.”