Brigantine police Chief John E. Stone Jr. announced his retirement Friday after 25 years in the department.

Stone oversaw a community policing program that brought increased interaction between residents and the police, including on social media websites such as Facebook and Nixle.

“I think it helped bridge the gap,” he said Friday. “I met a lot of really nice people on the island, and I hope they feel we’re professional and friendly and a partner with the community.”

Stone, a 48-year-old Brigantine resident, also had the distinction of being the chief during the disastrous Hurricane Sandy and its immediate aftermath, including a visit from President Barack Obama.

“I’d just got home after working 18-to-20-hour days and one of the guys called me at 5:30 in the morning saying the Secret Service is in the office waiting for you,” he said. “I thought he was kidding.”

City officials have known about Stone’s potential retirement for months, prompting City Council to consider the option of folding the city’s three chiefs of beach patrol, fire and police into one public safety director position.

Stone, who joined the force in 1988 and was appointed chief in 2010, put in his notice about five months ago, said City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal.

“We’re very sad to lose him,” she said. “He’s been a great chief, and I’ve been honored to work with him.”

Blumenthal said City Council is still discussing the public safety director option, but progress is unlikely until after the city’s 2013 budget is finalized.

Ray Cox, a policeman since 1989 and captain since 2010, will step forward as acting chief.

Stone said the biggest challenges facing Cox, whom he described as a “cop’s cop,” are financial. Since 2010, the Police Department is down three officers and the city has been slow to replace vacant positions. That has meant training officers to cover a broader range of duties, he said.

“We’re working well with less,” he said. “We dont want to whine about it, but we have to do what we have to do.”

Contact Wallace McKelvey:

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