ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - Looking back on her first year as a borough police officer, Ptl. Erica Hoffman is more convinced than ever she made the right choice and is in a good position to continue meeting her goal of always being helpful to others.
The very ambitious and dedicated police officer is celebrating one year on the department this month, having come here after serving as a police officer in New York City, and after earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees in criminal justice and criminal intervention. Prior to becoming an officer in New York, Ptl. Hoffman also worked ten years as a professional counselor, with an emphasis on drug and alcohol counseling.
Both her professional and educational background are impressive. After high school, she went to Brookdale College where she earned her associate degree, then on to John Jay School of Law where she earned her bachelor’s degree and, in another 18 months, her master’s.
Her dedication to helping others comes from her upbringing, it certainly appears. Her dad has been on a police department for nearly a quarter a century, and four of the five offspring of James and Patty Hoffman are all in careers that help others; a sister has her teaching degree, a brother is a welder, and another sister, Nancy, joined the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Department at about the same time Erica came to Atlantic Highlands. The fifth sibling, a seven year old, hasn’t chosen his career field yet but remains impressed by all his older siblings have accomplished.
Erica’s dad continues to serve with the Hopewell Police Department, and it was with great pride when Erica first joined the New York department that she could have her dad’s badge number as well, meaning for those years, both father and daughter had the same badge number in two different departments.
For most of her first year in Atlantic Highlands, Erica has been working in the department office and only recently is adding patrol experience to her workload. It certainly isn’t because she did not want to go out on the road, or that she did not feel comfortable about it. Nothing much has come easy in this officer’s life and getting on the police department in New Jersey was just one more hurdle she fought…and, no surprise to those who know her, eventually won. It was a simple matter of the excellence New Jersey puts on police work and what they demand of their officers to be certified.
New Jersey would not accept any of this officer’s New York training. The state did grant waivers for Physical Fitness training as well as Drill and Ceremony. But, in spite of her background, her experience on a big city department, and her outstanding record, Ptl. Hoffman still had to go through, and pass, almost all of the required New Jersey training.
So, she was then scheduled to start at the police academy last year, right after joining the Atlantic Highlands department. But COVID -19 struck and the Monmouth County Police Academy was delayed for several months. Since, in spite of her experience she could not do police duties as a certified police officer in New Jersey until she had successfully finished the academy; she could, however, perform dispatch and administrative duties inside. She did all this as well as pass all the Police Academy regulations last December. Since then, she had been in the local department‘s field training program. Finally, with all her preparation, with all the requirements behind here, this veteran law enforcement officer is now officially certified for solo patrol work.
“We were surprised that she would have to attend duplicate training in New Jersey after completing the NYPD academy and working in the city for over a year,” Police Chief David Rossbach said. “ When the Monmouth County Police Academy was delayed due to COVID-19 we were in contact with the New Jersey Police Training Commission to see if she could work as a police officer. But they held firm and would not allow her to work in New Jersey until completing the Monmouth County Police Academy. In the end, she was able to fill in for dispatchers and began doing firearms applicant investigations, which kept her quite busy until the academy started. There is no doubt, the Chief said, “Ptl. Hoffman is now a very well trained police officer having attended the NYC Police Academy and the Monmouth County Police Academy.” Nor does the chief have any criticism for the delays that have developed because of the state regulations. “The fact the New Jersey would not accept the New York training speaks volumes to how professional our New Jersey Law Enforcement Officers are. New Jersey is always at the forefront with training and best practices,” the chief said.
As for Ptl. Hoffman, she likes the 12-hour shifts and the difference in workloads between the day and night shifts. “Days we have time and opportunity to see the residents,” she explained, “doing time checks for parking, I have the opportunity get out of the patrol car and chat with residents who are out walking their dogs or just out walking and enjoying the friendship of this community.” On night patrol, the officer takes the opportunity become more familiar with every road, lane, and dead end street in the borough. “I was raised in the next town, lived in Belford and went to Middletown North High School, but driving around and familiarizing myself with each of the roads in this town ensures I'm always getting better on the job.”
The night shifts always include business checks as well as residential checks, with the officer encouraging all residents to inform the department if they are going to be away from home for any time period. “If they let us know they are going to be away, or someone is picking up their mail, both, otherwise no one is around, then we have the opportunity to keep all that information confidential but check on the residence if we see something suspicious or there is improper activity around the premises after dark.” Towards this end, she is also in praise of the department’s Activity Response program, where residents submit information about who to contact should they not be available and something is happening at their home or business.
Responding to a reporter’s questions with thought and preciseness, Ptl. Hoffman could only fail to find an answer to what she feels is the biggest problem the local police face. “That’s really a tough one,” she said, “I never gave it a thought. I can tell you what I have found is the department and all the emergency units in town are very well equipped, our emergency groups and our department work well together, and I know I have the support of everyone with whom I work. Together we can face whatever the problems are because I feel confident that together we can resolve them.”
Conceding that she doesn’t look at herself as a female in the male dominated world of law enforcement, the officer said she was simply brought up, like all her siblings, to do the best she could, work hard at what she wants, and help others. To every young girl looking at careers in male dominated fields today, Erica said “don’t let being a female stop you from doing anything you want to do. Pursue whatever field of work is rewarding for you, then just keep working at it until you achieve it. You will.”