CAPE MAY — The city promoted 24-year police veteran Robert Sheehan to the chief position Tuesday, and a standing-room-only crowd came to see him take the oath of office.

About 150 people crowded the City Hall auditorium, some up in the seldom-used balcony at the former Cape May High School, as Sheehan took the oath from Judge Louis Belasco.

Sheehan, 47, who started as a patrolman in 1990, and grew up locally as the son of Cape May Police Lt. Bob Sheehan, said he was honored to be named chief.

“I love this community. Cape May is where I was raised, went to school and lived with my family and friends,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan, who now lives in neighboring Lower Township with his wife, Vicky, and their three children, decided his first official act would be to award a Medal of Valor to Patrolman Scott Krissinger for pulling a Mays Landing man out of burning pickup truck in November. A video of the rescue made national news.

“I specifically wanted to make this my first official act,” said Sheehan, calling it an act of outstanding bravery.

His second act was to give a Unit Citation to all the officers on duty at the time, including Krissinger, Sgt. John Bobik, Patrolman Gus Coll and Patrolman John Campbell.

Sheehan not only takes the helm for policing the city, the city also patrols neighboring West Cape May and Cape May Point under an inter-local services agreement.

Sheehan said he has watched the city go from a small beach town to a nationally recognized resort, but he noted it still retains “small-town values.” He said he is a fan of community policing and may increase bike patrols in residential areas. He called building relationships in the community the “good old basics of police work.”

Sheehan has a bachelor’s degree from Richard Stockton State College and graduated from the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Va.

Sheehan takes over for Chief Diane Sorantinocq, who retired last year. He will be in charge of 21 full-time and 15-20 seasonal officers.

City Council gave Sheehan a three-year contract starting at $123,500, said City Manager Bruce MacLeod. It reaches $126,000 the second year and $128,500 in the third year.

Mayor Ed Mahaney praised Sheehan as a man of intelligence, dedication and commitment. “He knows the citizens of our city and what it takes for the city to operate,” said Mahaney.

Councilwoman Deanna Fiocca said she grew up with Sheehan and was honored to welcome him as chief of police.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.