A routine dispatch call Phillipsburg police officer Brian Berrigan got just before he retired, brought tears in his eyes.
It’s common for County dispatchers to recognize a retiring officer in a send-off call broadcast to first responders, but Berrigan’s send-off call on Monday was different from that custom., because the voice on the other end of the call was of his son.
Dean Berrigan joined his father’s department as a police officer about six months ago after working for Lopatcong Township Police Department.
His stint from Phillipsburg cop to Warren County dispatcher was brief, but memorable. “Twenty-five years ago, you held me in your arms as you graduated police academy,” Dean said in the dispatch. “… Today, we stand side-by-side as brothers.” Dean said his dad was his best role model.
26-year-old Dean, said that joining the Phillipsburg Police Department was like a homecoming for him. The Phillipsburg High School graduate said he spent much of his youth getting to know the other officers who worked alongside his dad: “I saw them as family.”
Brian said the bond among Phillipsburg officers was strong throughout his career and recalled traveling with a group of officers to New York City after the 9/11 attacks, where he spent 24 hours on a search team that unearthed a firetruck in the rubble. He praised those who worked Ground Zero for far longer, and was grateful that “we were able to go up there and put our time in.”
He said that in his 25-year career in law enforcement, he has been able to do everything from saving lives to helping deliver babies.
He said patrol work also involved helping people and was a very fulfilling experience. “You got those special calls where you’d show up just to give them some comfort,” Brian said. “It was nice to keep people at peace and provide that comfort.”
Phillipsburg Police Chief Robert Stettner described Brian as an “all-around good guy” who will be missed at the department but definitely not forgotten.
Monday’s send-off call from Dean was a unique component and the chief hoped that it would become the norm in the future. The ceremony brought other retired officers and families together, he said.
“I think a lot of the guys get afraid to retire,” the chief said, adding that the ceremony could help them feel more comfortable in the future and also remind them that they’re still part of the Phillipsburg police family. He praised town police Sgt. James McDonald for planning the ceremony.
Dean’s send-off call to his father was the sergeant’s brainchild, but Dean spoke from his heart. “You are not only my father; you have been a career mentor,” he said on the call. “It was an honor to serve by your side for the last six months, wearing the same uniform. As a fellow officer, I salute you. As your son, I’m going to miss you here. We are all going to miss you.”
Brian had tears in his eyes for most of the call as he sat in the front passenger’s seat of a police cruiser. “Phew … that was brutal,” he said smiling after the call ended.
Watch: Phillipsburg police officer has emotional final call after 25 years of service
Brian wouldn’t be resting too much after he retires, as he is also a licensed electrician and plans to continue running his business, LDC Electrical Contractors. His wife, Dina, also has plenty of work for him to do at home, he joked.
Brian has the same advice for Dean who has joined his department, “Stay alert. Stay alive.” We’re pretty sure that Dean would do very well in the department if he follows his dad’s sound advice.