Sea Isle Police Chief Tom McQuillen displays the new badge that pays homage to fallen city officer, Mickey Cullinane.

By Maddy Vitale

Michael “Mickey” Cullinane was the only Sea Isle City officer killed in the line of duty.

He has been memorialized by the city with a street sign at the intersection of 26th Street and Landis Avenue. The lobby of police headquarters in City Hall is named in his honor. The site where he died Aug. 26, 1992, became a memorial.

In yet another significant way the city is making sure Cullinane will never be forgotten is the use of his badge number 14 imprinted in the new patches on the police uniforms.

“We wanted to pay homage to Mickey,” Police Chief Tom McQuillen said Wednesday of the number 14 on every new patch adorning the sleeve of each officer’s uniform.

McQuillen, who was named the city’s new police chief in March, became an officer in Sea Isle the year after Cullinane died. Cullinane was overcome by lethal gases while rescuing a construction worker from a nearly 30-foot-deep pit. The pit was being dug on Landis Avenue at 26th Street as part of a sewage pumping station.

“We put the 14 in the new patches, so Mickey would not be forgotten,” McQuillen said. “It is there permanently.”

Each detail has particular significance to the police department.

In addition to Cullinane’s badge number, is a red rose that is across it. Other significant emblems that represent importance to Sea Isle are a large American flag and a compass.

“The American flag is to show our love of country and pride in the country,” McQuillen noted. “You will see the compass in the middle. That reflects Sea Isle’s fishing industry and reflects that we are a seaside community.”

The thin blue line at both the top and bottom of the patch symbolizes the police department’s duty to maintain a line of protection for the residents. 

The new patch is just the first step in the improvements to the department’s uniform policy, McQuillen said.

“When I was promoted, I quickly formed a uniform committee for the patch and uniform. In forming the committee, we looked at the uniforms. We wanted to make them more standardized,” McQuillen noted. “As an Army veteran, this is near and dear to me. I strive for us to be the best. I want to continue to improve the level of professionalism and looking sharp is part of that.”

Sgt. John Saltzman oversees the uniform committee, which is made up of fellow officers and personnel. The committee, with the chief’s approval, decided on the new patch and may, in the near future, have new uniforms.

When it came to the patch, the chief said the committee went back and forth over a couple of versions before deciding on the one selected.

The new patches were placed on the department’s existing uniforms. However, Sea Isle is considering switching to new uniforms that McQuillen said would look more professional.

Saltzman and the committee are looking at alternatives for the police uniforms. Saltzman, a former Marine, has been with the department for nine years and is very dedicated, McQuillen said. 

The committee is also considering a vest-like “external body carrier,” which would replace the often bulky duty belts. Police are loaded up with items that weigh about 15 pounds. In addition to their weapons and holsters, they also carry handcuffs, pepper sprays, pouches, tourniquets, batons and spare ammunition magazines. If they switch to the carrier, they could take it on and off with ease.

“There is more of a push to go to an external body carrier,” McQuillen said. “If an officer is doing paperwork, he can simply unzip the external body carrier.”

The chief stressed that the officers’ weapons would remain on them in a holster.

“The officers are driving a car for 12-hour shifts,” McQuillen explained. “Their comfort level is important to me. It is all about making the changes to make their jobs easier to do and they can focus on their tasks. If we can remove or lessen things that impact them, they can go home safely.”

McQuillen said he would still have to budget for new uniforms, so he could not give details Wednesday on the cost or timeline.

A wreath bearing Michael Cullinane’s nickname, “Mickey,” adorns the Sea Isle City memorial that honors him in an August 2017 photo.