By Berit Ann Ollestad
Surrounded by Morris County’s Finest and more sidearms than you’d find at a gun buy-back, former Sheriff John Fox was honored recently along with the late Sheriff Arnold Ladd for 45 years of combined service.
To put that in perspective, those two led the Sheriff’s Office for about one-sixth of its 275-year history.
Sydney Ladd of Morristown fondly told a huge crowd at the Morris County Courthouse how her father brought home inmates to do chores around their house as they repaid their debt to society.
This sowed the seeds for SLAP, the county’s successful Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program, said current Sheriff Ed Rochford, the 76th person to hold the title.
Legend has it that Sheriff Ladd also brought home circus tigers, rescuing them from a bureaucratic cross-fire. That program has not been repeated, according to officials who shared some laughter while remembering Arnold Ladd as a kind-hearted professional who marched to the beat of his own drum.
Sheriff Ladd also is remembered for rounding up the homeless when weather turned nasty, so they could ride out the storm with hot meals and a warm bed.
The formula worked: He was elected for a record nine consecutive three-year terms. Sheriff Ladd, who died in 1987 at 74, also chaired the Morris County Republican Committee and was a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.
“Sheriff Ladd served with distinction for so many years and he laid the foundation for Sheriff Fox to come in and make this agency what it is today,” Sheriff Rochford said.
Photos by Berit Ollestad.Please click icon for captions.
“The Morris County Sheriff’s Office has earned the honorable distinction of being the number one sheriff’s office in all of New Jersey, if not all of the Northeast. This is a direct result of the strong foundation both these gentlemen set forth,” said the former Morris Township police officer.
John Fox, a former Parsippany councilman and Morris County freeholder, was ahead of his time, Sheriff Rochford continued.
“He came in here and started our bomb squad, he started our canine unit, our criminal investigation section…If he didn’t have that vision, we would not be here today with the agency that we have, providing support services to all the municipal police departments here in Morris County, the FBI and the Secret Service,” said Sheriff Rochford, who defeated John in the 1992 Republican primary.
For all his achievements, however, John Fox is likely to be remembered most for establishing SLAP, which has been emulated throughout New Jersey and elsewhere.
It’s a community-based corrections program that provides a structured alternative to incarceration for persons sentenced by Morris County courts. Instead of going to jail, people sentenced to SLAP perform moderate levels of manual labor. This enables them to maintain employment, provide for their families and continue to be productive members of society while serving their sentence.
“I’m very honored and surprised at such a large turnout for today’s event. I’m especially surprised at how many local guys made it here today” said former Sheriff Fox, 72. The law enforcement people on hand included his son, Detective Sgt. John Fox Jr. of the East Hanover Police Department.
Plaques commemorating Sheriffs Fox and Ladd will hang in the courthouse. The Jan. 24, 2014, event was the first of several scheduled to mark the 275th anniversary of the Sheriff’s Office.