Like any skilled police officer, Westfield Police Capt. Cliff Auchter is trusting his instincts. After 37 years with the department, the public information officer has announced his retirement and will spend his final day on the force today.
"There's always been an adage in the police business that you know when it's time to go and that has come across my thought process; I'm not a kid anymore," said the 59 year old. "That being said, it's a young man's job and it's time for me to do something different."
Auchter began his career with the WPD in February of 1976. In September of 1982 he was promoted to detective of the Juvenile Bureau. He then advanced to lieutenant assigned to patrol in December of 1993. By August of 1998, Auchter was named detective lieutenant in charge of the investigative division before being promoted to captain in September of 1999.
Chief David Wayman reflected on his fellow officer's years of devoted service to the department as well as to the residents of Westfield.
"Captain Auchter will fondly be remembered for not only his dedicated service but also for the professional level of service he has brought to and lead this organization to achieve," Wayman wrote in an email to Patch. "Captain Auchter will truly be missed, however, he leaves behind (a) legacy and a career that he and his family can reflect upon and be proud of. I know Cliff Auchter will be successful in whatever his future endeavors may be."
Auchter, the father of three adult children—two sons and a daughter—said he will take some time off before making his next career move.
"I've been told by my wife and daughter that I will not be working immediately after retirement but at some point I will be doing something," he said. "I don't know whether I'm going to go into corporate investigations or security work. I just have not made that decision just yet."
The Berkeley Heights resident said he looks forward to taking care of some jobs around his house and will consider seeking employment in the new year.
A highlight of his career, Auchter said, was being named Union County's Municipal Officer of the Year in 1993. The plaque he received is proudly displayed in his office.
"At the time I was a detective in the juvenile bureau," he recalled.
The award was given in recognition of Auchter's "first-rate investigative work including thoroughly-completed and well-written reports" as well as "assisting prosecutors in presentation of cases" and "commanding the respect of fellow officers."
Speaking of his fellow officers, Auchter said they are what he will miss most about his career in law enforcement.
"I feel honored that I had 37 years to serve the people of Westfield and in my tenure I've met some absolutely wonderful people in town and have established some long-standing friendships," he said.
To lend some perspective to how long he's been in town, Auchter said he can remember when Ferraro's was a single-door, hole-in-the-wall pizza shop. He said he was recently reflecting with proprietor Anna Ferraro on the changes they've witnessed in and around Westfield, an area he said he'll miss but will frequently visit.
"I'll still be around; I'm not going anywhere far," he said.
Auchter's retirement will be celebrated at the police department with cake and coffee this afternoon.