In early 1969 a new Tactical Force was developed in the Newark Police Department. The city was in desperate need of new methods to combat the increase in violent crimes. Captain Chris Volz was to head up the Tactical Squad with 36 highly trained men who would be on call 24 hours working in plain clothes, uniforms, on foot and in patrol cars. Over 200 men where screened for this dangerous and very intense job. The preferential men were as follows: Robert Scarpone, Thomas Rizzo, Richard Capobianco, James Pittaro, Baldesario (Benny) Abruzzo, William Richardson, David Gordon, Stanley Ford, William Leone, George Lytwin, Robert Rankin, John Baird, James Moretti, Peter Leone, Nicholas Guarino, Gary Egan, Patrick Dullaghan, Alberico Alfano, Joseph Ward, Donald Walsh, Phillip Walker, Eugene Nicholson, William Coley, Richard Schmalz, Daniel Blue, James Ventola,, Joseph Mosca, Charles Conte, Joseph Curran, Charles Kelly Jr., & William Clark. They were the new enforcers, young, strong, eager, sharp and dedicated men ready to aggressively attack the city’s criminal activity.
The three new sergeants assigned to the force were Chester Popek, Antonio Bonavita and Richard Masterson, better know as “Bat” Masterson.
Sergeant Popek chose Benny Abruzzo as his driver and partner knowing of Benny’s previous reputation as a police officer. The first week they drove together in their unmarked car they were called by the dispatcher of a robbery in progress at a gas station. They were given the description of the suspects and told they were both armed with guns. Sergeant Manghisi was also in an unmarked car and was able to track and follow the suspects until Popek and Benny were in close proximitry, both cars then blocked each end of the street trapping their suspects. Knowing they were armed and dangerous, they drew their weapons and captures both robbers. they were in possession of .25 caliber automatics and marijuana.
There wasn’t a night that went by without several arrest from these Enforcers but Benny and the Department knew there was more to be done. Benny knew that the Narcotics Squad was in desperate need of new blood, new direction and giving top priority in cutting down crimes being fueled by drugs. He complained constantly to Sergeant Popek not knowing that his brother-in-law Lt. Al Gomes ran the Narcotics Unit. He asked Benny what would you do if you were assigned to the Narcotics Unit and he said, ” I’ll show you what can be done, just give it to me.” And that was the first step into his transfer to Narcotics where he would stay for the next 17 years and make a huge difference in the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey.
You won’t want to miss the action coming up. They didn’t call him Kojak for nothing.
Always makes me proud to read about my father, Chester Popek and my Uncle Al.
It’s a pleasure to honor your father Chester and your Uncle Al. They were all truly the unsung heros.
All the best,
Your husband is a hero. I watched the documentary with my lady, and we both wanted to meet him so badly. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. May Benny rest in peace.
A true American hero.
18 year Police Officer
City of Poughkeepsie Police Department
Thank you so much for your sincere recognition of my husband Benny. He truly was a hero and a officer with honor, , dignity, integrity and compassion. He is painfully missed.
Thank you for your service and honor as a police officer.
You are all heros.
God Bless you and your family.
Robert Scarpone was my grandfather, he was a Newark Police Officer from 1961-1986 he unfortunately recently passed away about a year ago. If anyone was on the job with him during those times and would be willing to reach out and tell stories about him in those times it would be greatly appreciated