The Prosecutor is the Chief law enforcement officer in the County, and by statute, is responsible for the detection, arrest, indictment and conviction of offenders against the criminal laws of the State of New Jersey. The Governor, with the consent of the State Senate, appoints the County Prosecutor in each of the twenty-one counties to a five year term of office, which may be renewed at the Governor’s pleasure. In fact, New Jersey is only one of two states in the nation whose prosecutors are appointed by the Governor and are not elected officials. Our current County Prosecutor, Jeffrey H. Sutherland, was sworn into office on December 21st, 2017 as appointed by Governor Chris Christie. The Prosecutor is at the center of New Jersey’s criminal justice system and wields a great deal of discretionary power to resolve matters involving violations of criminal statues within the County’s geographical boundaries. The Prosecutor may pursue criminal prosecution by seeking indictments, or recommend plea bargaining agreements to the Court. The quality and direction of law enforcement efforts in any county is directly related to the actions of the Prosecutor and his staff. The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office received Accreditation in June of 2012 by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and was the 2nd Prosecutor’s Office to receive this Accreditation in New Jersey. Prosecutors in Cape May County have traditionally taken a proactive approach to law enforcement, maintaining a skilled and proficient response to criminal activity, while at the same time initiating aggressive intelligence gathering such as a monthly information sharing meeting with all law enforcement agencies and subsequent dissemination of intelligence through a newsletter. The Prosecutor’s Office has improved its emergency response programs with the creation of a Rapid Response Team capable of coping with most heavily armed suspects and enhancing school security. Other innovative outreach programs have been initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office in the schools and community to address such issues as school security, juvenile bullying, cyber bullying and safety, domestic violence, gang recruitment and activity and human relations.
A County Prosecutor’s Office normally has three sections, legal, investigative and support, with all working closely together to successfully prosecute offenders. Specialized units such as narcotics, child abuse, Megan’s Law, economic crimes, intelligence, etc. are utilized and are particularly effective in complex economic crime or homicide investigations as well as sophisticated narcotics investigations. Currently in Cape May County, Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland has a First Assistant Prosecutor, Robert Johnson, Sr.,two Chief Assistant Prosecutors, Michelle DeWeese and Savario Carroccia who supervise a staff of ten Assistant Prosecutors assigned to the legal section. The professional and experienced staff of Assistant Prosecutors is assigned to various duties and responsibilities including Grand Jury preparation, trials, juvenile court, domestic violence and drug court as well as legal liaison to the Gangs, Guns and Narcotics Task Force, Megan’s Law Unit and Child Abuse Unit.
The Investigative Division is currently comprised of Chief Paul Skill; Captain, Michael Emmer; four Lieutenants and seven Sergeants who supervise thirty detectives and eight agents. The division is divided into three sections; Major Crimes; Gangs, Guns and Narcotics Task Force and Special Operations and Planning. The Major Crimes Section handles all types of criminal investigations occurring in Cape May County with the exception of those specialized cases involving organized criminal networks dealing with gangs, guns and narcotics. This exceptionally skilled group of detectives is assigned to a variety of primary assignments, such as homicide and aggravated assault investigations, official corruption cases, child abuse investigations, and sexual assaults. Consistent with the Governor’s Strategy for Safe Streets and Neighborhoods and the Attorney General’s violent crime reduction initiatives, the existing county wide narcotics task force had been reorganized to create the Gangs, Guns and Narcotics Task Force. The Multi-jurisdictional Task Force is focused on suppressing organized networks engaged in violence, gun possession and narcotics distribution, a top statewide law enforcement priority. The Special Operations and Planning Section was created by Retired Prosecutor Taylor with experienced members of the office assigned to provide coordination and leadership in some of the newly emerging areas of responsibility that the office has been directed to oversee in the County by the Attorney General and the Director of Homeland Security. Homeland Security, preparedness, planning and response and terrorism investigation are part of this section’s duties. Also part of the section is a detective assigned to internal affairs investigations involving criminal complaints against municipal police officers. Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland continues these efforts today.
In 2010, Retired Prosecutor Taylor authorized the Special Operations and Planning to coordinate the national accreditation of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office by the Commission on the Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. Accreditation by CALEA is designed to ensure that law enforcement personnel are trained to perform their duties in a professional manner and in accordance with the policies, procedures and best practices of the organization. Upon completion of the accreditation process in early 2012, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office was only the second Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey that has achieved this distinction. A skilled support staff completes the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office with seventeen experienced legal secretaries, typists and clerks assigned to various areas throughout the office responsible for the transcription of major crime statements, intake of criminal complaints and police reports from the Prosecutor’s Office as well as all law enforcement agencies in the County, data processing, filing and general clerical work. Included with the support staff is an Office of Victim/Witness Advocacy within the Prosecutor’s Office comprised of trained staff of three advocates, supervised by one coordinators offering a wide array of services to victims of crimes. There are five Prosecutor’s Agents assigned to such specialized duties in the office as criminal case preparation, evidence custody and computer network administration. A forensic chemist completes the support services provided by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office providing timely drug analysis and related services to the County’s law enforcement community as well as in special circumstances to federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration and state agencies such as the New Jersey State Police and Alcohol Beverage Control.