A man credited with modernizing the police force as the township population swelled, and who earned national accolades, has died at home. Richard C. Clement, a longtime police chief for the township, was 88.
Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher confirmed Clement died at home of natural causes at 2 a.m. Tuesday. The mayor announced the news at Tuesday's township council meeting, describing a man who was essential to crafting a police force that was recognized nationwide for its technology, law enforcement and community service. Clement earned many accolades during his time as police chief.
It was nearly a year ago that the police headquarters were renamed in Clement's honor. The rededication ceremony was well attended by current and former officials for the township, county and state, as well as colleagues of Clement, who came out to honor his decades of service.
That day Clement called the rededication "the highest honor" he achieved. He that he loved the work, the community and his colleagues so dearly. The will now be known as the Richard Clement Law Enforcement Center.
Clement served in World War II and after the war, Clement joined the then-Dover Township Police and rose through the ranks from patrolman to chief.
Kelaher remembers swearing in Clement to the position of chief when he was a local attorney.
"He had his drab green army uniform died blue and affixed with brass buttons to make it into his police suit," Kelaher said.
Clement's opening of the police headquarters was Aug. 16, 1975, and 36 years later to the day, police headquarters would be rededicated in his honor.
Kelaher said Clement was an instrumental force in town, not simply because he was police chief but because of all that was accomplished.
Before Clement was chief, the police department came from a house on and into a series of larger homes before calling Oak Avenue home, Kelaher said. He credits Clement with modernizing the police force.
“During the time he was chief he did a lot of innovative things,” Kelaher said. “He was responsible for leading the department from a small rural department into the present day, modern force that we see today.”
Clement also served as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Kelaher said, and received recognition from President Ford. After his service as chief, he worked for an Atlantic City casino as the vice president for government affairs there.
Besides making his mark in Toms River, Clement’s post as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police really elevated the township in the eyes of those on the outside looking in, Kelaher said.
Clement excelled as a high schooler at Toms River High School, where he played football. A teenage Clement witnessed the Hindenburg disaster, a story he recalled for .
Clement said that as a 13 year old he was playing football with friends and saw the Hindenburg pass over repeatedly, and remembers the destruction that day.
“It was quite a sight. The biggest thing you ever saw,” he said in a May interview.
His family owned a dairy farm in Ridgeway that “provided all the milk to the Naval Air Station out in Lakehurst for years,” he explained. Clement would work on the dairy farm in the summers when he was a child.
In addition, Clement explained a further connection. “My grandfather was from Germany. He was friendly with the officers on the Hindenburg. During previous trips, they were all out to the dairy farm."
On subsequent anniversaries of the Hindenburg disaster, Clement would attend the Lakehurst historical events, he said that he had a keen interest in it.
Clement retired as police chief in 1979.
Clement was a graduate of Thomas A. Edison College and also graduated from the FBI National Academy. He previously served as president and chairman of the Toms River Republican Club.
Clement's funeral services are private.
JD Watson contributed to this article, which contains reporting from Toms River Patch archives.