MAYS LANDING-Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of County Investigators Bruce DeShields said that he knew from a very early age that he was going to pursue a career in law enforcement. And now, he serves as the Chief of Atlantic County Investigators and is regarded by his agency as a seasoned leader and friend.
Prior to his service with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Chief of Atlantic County Investigators Bruce DeShields served as a Patrol Officer with the Riverside Township Police Department, the State of New Jersey, Human Services Police Department and the Richard Stockton Police Department.
ACPO Chief Bruce DeShields said he knew as a boy that he wanted to be a police officer. He recalls delivering newspapers in his neighborhood in Williamstown and watched one day as a Monroe Township Police car came down the street past him with lights and sirens on.
“And when I saw that police car, coming down that street, I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew I wanted to become a police officer,” Chief DeShields said.
Chief DeShields would make that boyhood dream a reality and he served as a Patrol Officer with the Riverside Township Police Department, the State of New Jersey Human Services Police Department and the Richard Stockton Police Department.
Ultimately, Chief DeShields would find his permanent law enforcement home at the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in August 1989, as a County Investigator. During his 30 years that have followed at the ACPO, the Chief climbed the ranks and has served as a County Investigator, Sergeant of County Investigators, Lieutenant of County Investigators, Captain of County Investigators and now making history as the ACPO’s first African American Chief of County Investigators.
ACPO Capt. Pat Snyder said that he began his work in the ACPO Major Crimes Unit in 2008, and Chief DeShields was the only Lieutenant in the Unit at the time and by default he was out on every single job—any day and all day.
“I witnessed and admired his dedication to his co-workers. But more importantly, his unwavering belief in what we were doing for the families who were impacted by violence. For all the time spent… he never once complained. It’s not in his character which was formed under his father who served honorably in the USMC,” Capt. Snyder said.
Capt. Snyder said the Chief prides himself on never missing a work day due to illness and he believes that Chief DeShields may be up to a historic run of perfect attendance.
Capt. Snyder worked for the Chief as a Sergeant in the Major Crimes Unit, and then the pair worked as co-lieutenants in the Unit. Capt. Snyder said his career has followed the Chief around the office and most likely he wouldn’t have had the success that he did if not for Chief DeShields friendship, mentorship and guidance.
During the days that the pair investigated homicides together, Capt. Snyder said, that he frequently asked Bruce to sit in on interviews because he really cared and the people would see that genuine concern. Capt. Snyder said it allowed them to open up more and provide more information because they trusted what the Chief said.
“I have always considered him a great mentor and after the length of time he has spent in law enforcement it is obvious he isn’t doing it for the money, he does it because of the passion he has for the job. It was a very proud moment for me to watch him become the Chief of this agency. He has been successful in each unit he has worked. He truly brings people together,” Capt. Snyder said.
ACPO Lt. Kevin Ruga said he first met Chief DeShields in 2002, when Ruga was a police recruit in the academy. The Chief had a calm demeanor and a ready smile, Lt. Ruga said.
“Which made me feel like I was talking to a favorite uncle instead of a police officer,” said Lt. Ruga.
In 2010, Chief DeShields welcomed Lt. Ruga into the ACPO Major Crimes Unit, which DeShields oversaw as Lieutenant.
“For the next 3 years, I had the privilege and pleasure of working for a man who had a true passion for homicide investigations. No matter the weather or time of year, he arrived at each homicide scene dressed “to the nines”. He impressed upon each of us the importance of looking and acting professional, out of respect to the deceased victims, their families, and the public with whom we would be interacting,” Lt. Ruga said.
Lt. Ruga said Chief DeShields is the type of supervisor who isalways ready to lend a hand or a suggestion, but he never micro-manages.
“He had a well-regarded ability for interviewing people, so if we had a recalcitrant suspect or witness and Bruce was around, we could always ask him to step in. He also looked out for each of his detectives, offering a word of encouragement or praise that always seemed to come at just the right time. Bruce is the epitome of a man who earned your respect, rather than demanding it,” Lt. Ruga said.
ACPO Lt. Michael Ayo echoed his colleagues words of praise of Chief DeShields’ commitment and professionalism, as well as his friendship.
“Above all else, Bruce has been a consummate friend to me, an inexhaustible source of wisdom and knowledge. Bruce is the epitome of professionalism, dedication, resourcefulness and drive that all law enforcement professionals should strive for. Bruce’s indomitable spirit and tireless commitment to the community to which he has served for over 30 years is inspiring and admirable,” Lt. Ayo said.
Sgt. Tracey Thompson said Chief of County Investigators, Bruce DeShields, has proven to be a consummate professional ever since the two men have known one another. Chief DeShields continues to demonstrate what it means to be a trailblazer, in a profession that is ever changing, Sgt. Thompson said. With over three decades of public service to the citizens and visitors of Atlantic County and the State of New Jersey, Chief DeShields has proven himself to be a change agent in the community, Sgt. Thompson added.
“He continues to break barriers and glass ceilings with his most recent promotion to the rank of Chief of County Investigators. Chief DeShields has the uncanny ability to draw people together and impact lives in a way that is second to none. As we celebrate Black History Month, Chief DeShields is truly worthy of being recognized for his many, unparalleled contributions and continued dedicated service,” Sgt. Thompson said.
ACPO County Investigator Nina Mitchell said that conversations with Chief DeShields always end with, “If you need me, you know where to find me, alright”. Well, let’s just say you may not have to find him, because he may already be there, Investigator Mitchell said.
“With his leadership and attendance I was able to obtain a better understanding to be conducive. He also has never faltered away from his open door of patience with a listening ear, always ready to give guidance. I wholeheartedly appreciate and admire Chief DeShields dedication, his reliability, and resilience as I know that I will continue to gain knowledge and a great perception from his multitude of experience through his 37 years of serving in law enforcement. I will never steer away from being the “sponge” to take on new challenges and learn as he encourages me to be,” Investigator Mitchell said.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment