Lt. Slimm reflects on Hammonton Police Department career
HAMMONTON—Several weeks ago, retired Hammonton Police Department (HPD) Lt. Edward Slimm stopped by the offices of The Gazette for an interview about his lengthy career on the local police force and the experience he had as a nearly lifelong Hammontonian and a member of the HPD for nearly three decades.
“I went into the academy in August 1994. I retired on December 31, 2021. It was 27 years, five months,” Slimm, 53, said.
Growing up, Slimm spent all but about seven years of his life in Hammonton. He said he lived on Valley Avenue in the 1970s, on Vine Street and, on top of the Bull’s Horn Inn (now Rocco’s Town House) later moving to Tilton Street in 1981. As a young adult, he lived in other places, he said.
“I always found my way back here,” Slimm said.
His mother, Evelyn Cassidy, served the town as a crossing guard, “forever” he said and was an influence on his decision to become a police officer.
“I had two courses that I wanted to go: Either an art teacher or a police officer. When I was young, I had to go to speech classes because I couldn’t say the letter ‘s’ properly. They used [the word] German Shepherds to help teach me how to say it, and I always associated them with police,” Slimm said.
A visit by a state trooper during a career day at the local schools also had a profound influence on him when he was younger.
“Police was a stronger pull than art,” Slimm said.
Assisting others in need was one of the best parts of being a police officer, particularly in his hometown.
“I’ve always been one to help people,” he said.
According to Slimm, there are pros and cons to being a member of the police department in your hometown.
“The pros are you know everybody, and the cons are you know everybody. But the pros far outweigh the cons because if you ever need anything in this town, people will help you because everybody knows everybody. People in this town are very supportive of the police department,” Slimm said, citing a fundraiser for Det. Peter Hagerty and other examples.
“There is a lot of respect. It’s a tight-knit community. We have a great department. The men and women are all professional,” he said.
While rising through the ranks from officer (patrolman) in 1994, to sergeant in 2009 to patrol sergeant in 2012, to the detective bureau in 2012 (in charge until 2019) to lieutenant in 2019, Slimm served in many capacities at the HPD, including Internal Affairs (IA).
He recalled the work involved with being a detective, including going to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 3 a.m. on occasion for a search warrant when needed. He said he enjoyed being actively involved in police work.
“I was never one to sit at the desk working—I’d rather be out with the guys after I did my administrative stuff,” Slimm said.
He referenced many of the fellow officers he served with who were influences on him during his career, including Chief Kevin Friel, Chief Robert Jones, Captain Mark Fiorentino, Lt. Sean Locantore, Lt. Steven Zoyac, Det. Joel Frederico, Sgt. Angel Mojica and Sgt. Tim Ruggeri.
He cited Frederico as an influence during his time as a member of the detective bureau.
“He had great interview skills,” he said.
During his long tenure in the HPD, Slimm saw the physical changes to the department, including a fleet of new vehicles and, perhaps most importantly, an entirely new police department in the new town hall at Central Avenue and Vine Street, which opened in 2008.
“We used to be in the basement, and water would come in through the windows. We would have to stand on benches when we got changed, because of the water on the floor. The new police department made it more conducive to being able to do your job, not having to deal with mold or water coming in. It had all the modern amenities. And there were no more cells with bars on them,” Slimm recalled with a laugh.
The new vehicles also changed police work locally.
“I remember driving a Crown Vic [Victoria] to Atlantic County, and when I got out, it wouldn’t start and had to be towed. Now, we’re keeping cars longer, but they’re assigned to one person so they last longer,” Slimm said.
There are distinct memories of being on the force that Slimm will always recall, such as the time during the 2015 Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel when he and then-Lt. (now Chief) Kevin Friel were on a John Deere Gator that was hit on N. Egg Harbor Road by a drunk driver.
“You tell your wife you love her before you go to work because you never know if you’re coming home or not, even in Hammonton,” Slimm said.
And yet, the job continued for Slimm and Friel, even on that night.
“After we got hit, we went back to work,” he said.
Another memory, this one from 2002, involved a 2-year-old boy who was severely disabled—police were called about an unresponsive infant. Slimm arrived on the scene with then-Sgt. Mark Fiorentino.
“I started doing first aid. We couldn’t wait for the rescue squad. I took the baby and continued CPR in the back of a Crown Vic with Sgt. Fiorentino driving and the mother in the passenger seat. We went to Kessler [Memorial Hospital]. We made it there in good time. The roughest part about it was the mom in the front seat, and that my own son was the same age at the time,” Slimm said.
The child died, Slimm said. He noted that the police work continued that day, even after a tragic incident.
“You then continue on with the rest of the day—What helped me through it was a few weeks later I saw the mom in the 7-Eleven. She was very appreciative of both our efforts and everything that we did. That could have gone another way, and she could have blamed me in some way. But she didn’t. That’s what’s great about a small town. They know your heart is in it,” Slimm said.
Noting that there is perception among police officers that “cops aren’t supposed to share their feelings,” Slimm said that in 2019, President Donald Trump started an initiative to begin tracking police officer suicides. During his time on the HPD, Slimm was involved with the Resiliency Police Officer Program, which he said was a way to get police to learn how to cope with the stresses of the job. In 2019, Slimm was named the Resiliency Police Officer for the HPD. He worked with Sgt. Jason Kangas and Sgt. C.J. Durham of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
There are cop-to-cop services which include a wellness program and behavioral health, Slimm said, adding that police officers should seek help when needed for mental health and all aspects of police work.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Never stop learning. You can always learn something. I was always curious. If someone knew something, I would latch onto them and learn from them. You have to find the right mentor,” Slimm said.
Police work in Hammonton means officers encounter a variety of crimes, and Slimm said people should know that their police officers are dealing with those crimes.
“Every crime people see on TV, happens in Hammonton. We have our share. We’re not 20 murders a month, but we have homicides, sexual assaults, burglaries. We have our share of everything. The officers and detectives coming to your house have been trained to do everything. The current administration is very receptive to sending people to school to learn the latest techniques,” Slimm said.
One incident that comes to mind from the late 1990s happened on Central Avenue, just down the street from the police department, on the second floor of the former Olivo’s Market building.
“There was a woman over Olivo’s, walking on the edge of the building, and she was going to jump. I remember I was in sweatpants and a tank top because I was off-duty at the time, catching up on reports. At that time, Chief Jones was a detective. The woman was distraught. She wanted to jump. She spoke no English. Jones distracted her, and I circled around and pulled her off the ledge. I remember the girl’s name was America,” he said.
Reflecting on a nearly 30-year career at the HPD, Slimm said he enjoyed his time as a police officer in his hometown.
“The job is enjoyable. I always liked going to work. There is a saying attributed to a NYPD detective: ‘The badge is the ticket to the Greatest Show on Earth’—which is true because you see some amazing things. It attracts the adrenaline junkie in some people—but I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Slimm said.
He thanked his family—including his wife of 23 years Linda Slimm and his son Edward Slimm for their support and for keeping him resilient.
“I thank my wife for my resiliency. I was fortunate because she was with the Hammonton Rescue Squad a number of years and saw the same things I did,” Slimm said.
Slimm was asked if there was one message about being a police officer he would like people to know. Here is what he said:
“Cops go through the same things other citizens do. We go through life, too, and we have bad days too,” Slimm said.