Lasallian values transcend the college environment and permeate into the community. Numerous Explorers across all networks have shaped their career by living out service rooted in faith to move society forward. A shining example of this is Thomas Ryan, ’02, Chief of Police in the Woodbury City Police Department. Since becoming Chief of Police in 2015, Ryan has become a role model for the modern law enforcement official. He has devoted his career to understanding the role of police officers in the community and implementing practices that benefit the growth of his community and officers. Leading by example, Chief Ryan has put his community at the forefront of his decisions. His care for the residents of Woodbury, New Jersey, and his officers throughout his impressive career resulted in him being recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as one of their “40 Under 40” recipients in October of 2018. This significant honor represents Chief Ryan’s dedication to his community and fellow officers; a dedication that began when he was a student at La Salle.
Thomas Ryan arrived at 20th and Olney in the fall of 1998. He was a member of the La Salle football team where he played middle linebacker and was a member of Delta Sigma Phi. “[I] showed up automatically having 100 friends.” Ryan spent his time in La Salle athletics learning about the value of being a part of something larger than the individual. When he was not on the field, Ryan spent his time mentoring and tutoring other La Salle athletes. Ryan remembers being taught, “be a man more than a player. It is all about life lessons.” Attaining his degrees in both criminal justice and sociology, Ryan knew that his path led him directly to law enforcement. With an education at La Salle that was rooted in friendship, accountability, and faith, Ryan was offered a position as an officer in the Woodbury City Police Department and has not looked back.
Arriving at the Woodbury City Police Department, Officer Ryan played a crucial role in nearly every aspect of law enforcement. Starting as a patrol officer and then detective, Ryan was able to see how law enforcement protects and engages the community. “I was handling everything from shopliftings to being lead detective on homicides…I would work directly with ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives), DEA and the FBI.” Outside of law enforcement, Ryan engaged with the community for events like National Night Out and movie nights for the local children. Ryan was able to see how the Woodbury City Police Department was able to protect its citizens while also improving their lives. Following ten years as a patrol officer and then detective, Officer Ryan began to rise through the ranks as a Sergeant, then Captain, with finally being promoted to Chief of Police in 2015. From there, Chief Ryan was able to implement his vision for his community and officers.
Through his engaging experience as an officer, Chief Ryan was able to see how his police department was growing. “I was in the right position at the right time,” notes Chief Ryan, “you see the climate today and you see that things have to be done differently from a police aspect.” Chief Ryan recognized the evolution of the role of the police and that the Woodbury City Police Department needed to be more than simply, “writing tickets and putting people in jail.” Law enforcement has changed as Chief Ryan explains:
People can’t just put their heads in the sand. They have to be more open-minded. Our officers have evolved. Police officers have always had to be peoples’ psychiatrist, big brother, and best friend. Ninety percent of the people we deal with are having the worst day of their life.
By recognizing this change in modern law enforcement, Chief Ryan was able to institute practices that moved Woodbury forward. Chief Ryan decided to be proactive, starting with the community. He established police liaisons for the LGBTQ community, created the Autism/Developmental Disability Registry, an Addictions Resource Table, and an extraordinary chaplain program. He made closer relationships with the President of the NAACP, pastors, and reverends to stress a consistent channel of communication from the police department to the community. Chief Ryan then turned his attention to his officers ensuring the best possible training for them. “Our officers are trained on more compassion…if someone wants help we can have them in a program.” From there, Chief Ryan’s officers were able to take a more educational focus resulting in 35% of his department having a master’s degree. With understanding, integrity, and transparency, the Woodbury Police Department has been able to move the entire town forward directly through Chief Ryan’s leadership.
The strides that Chief Ryan made and the impact that has been felt by the Woodbury community did not go unnoticed. A close relationship with renowned law enforcement author Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, resulted in Gilmartin nominating Chief Ryan for the 2018 IACP “40 Under 40.” Chief Ryan received this award at the IACP Conference in Orlando, Florida. He was among international chiefs of police from Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations as well as other chiefs of police in the United States. Chief Ryan was in awe of the ceremony, “[The fact that] some guy from South Jersey would get to be recognized with people throughout the world was amazing.”
Chief Ryan is going to continue to move his department forward. “When we work together as a team and respect the public, as much as each other, people will continue to notice that our department does things the right way for the right reasons.” His enduring work ethic, humility, and inspiration will move both the community and Woodbury City Police Department forward. These are all Lasallian values that Chief Thomas Ryan lets shine through in his career in law enforcement. “It all started at La Salle. I am very lucky.”