Serving Others, Paying It Forward, Making A Difference Every Day

John Burke

John Burke
Chief of Police
Bogota (NJ) Police Department

I was raised in Bogota, New Jersey beginning in 1968 at 5 years old. My father, Raymond J. Burke, was a NY City Transit Police Officer. Law Enforcement was not my first career choice because my father wanted me to go to college to pursue other interests. Shortly after graduating from college and earning a Master of Science Degree, I was approached by a local police officer making his rounds while I was waiting to take a bus into NYC at 4:30 a.m. He approached me and asked what are you doing up this crazy early hour every day, why don’t you take the police entrance exam here in Bogota? The officer was someone I grew up with and he believed I would be a good fit for our hometown agency. I spoke with my fiancé (now wife) and my father. Dad was not real keen on the idea but when I expressed that I believed I was meant to help others (just as he did and does) he could not deny me the opportunity. I took the entrance exam and completed the hiring process as the top candidate. I was sworn in on August 1, 1988. I was now able to follow in my father’s footsteps and serve the community I was raised and lived in… a TRUE HONOR and PRIVILEGE.

During my career, I made it my mission to make a positive difference in at least one person’s life (hopefully more) each day. I would hope they would take that positive experience and pay it forward in a similar way. I departed work each day hoping I left my community and those I serve in a better state than where I started the day. I also wanted to serve my peers in law enforcement and make a difference for them to the best of my ability. I rose through the ranks of our PBA Local #86 to the position of President as well as served on the contract committee for over 15 years of my career. I also rose through the ranks of my department ascending to the position of Police Chief in 2010. I am grateful for that honor and privilege which my community/hometown entrusted me with.

Although a small community police department with limited resources, I would like to think that in my 27 years, we as a police department, accomplished big things for our community. My proudest moments during my career were visiting and participating in an honor guard detail at the NLEOM in May 1994 (see video). Years later I participated in several Police Unity Tours to ensure that our Memorial, our home in Washington D.C., was maintained and continued to thrive in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Finally, one of my last pay it forward moments as am active police officer I will never forget; Participating in the Bergen County Chief for A Day program I along with my department and community supported a terminally ill child, making him the star of the day. A hug and a smile from that young boy later that day brought this grown man to tears (happy of course). I continue to serve in my retirement supporting our Military Veterans and Law Enforcement Charities through the Bergen County Police Chiefs Foundation ( All I can ask is that anyone reading this, please pay it forward and make a positive difference in someone’s life each day, you don’t need to be in Law Enforcement to do so but it is sure a great way to serve.

1994 Honor Guard at National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, P.O. John Burke and P.O. Leo McGuire

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