As far back as his memory can trail, Sgt. Michael Everett wanted to be a police officer – he’s even got the childhood yearbook inscriptions to prove it.
“The best thing about it is living and working here in Hamilton,” he said. “I’m a strong believer that a cop should live in the town he works in and that way, they have a vested interest in the people they mean to serve and protect. “
As the lead man on Hamilton’s Police Division’s Narcotics Unit, each morning Everett dons that uniform, there’s one thought that settle into his mind.
“I want to see the positive and make good changes in my community,” he said.
Forty-eight year old Everett was one of three children, who came of age in Hamilton under the care and the watchful eye of a single mom.
“My mother and my family made sure that we had everything we needed, and they did their best to provide for us,” he said.
Graduating from Hamilton West in 1986, he bypassed college, opting to join the elite ranks of the leathernecks instead.
“I figured that I would have the best chance to become a cop if I had some military experience,” he said. “The truth is my older brother had joined the Army and I wanted to one-up him; so I joined the Marines. “
From 1987 to 1991, Everett called Camp Lejeune in North Carolina home and hop scotched all over the world, including one Desert-Storm tour in Kuwait.
The young forward-observer accompanied the infantry, calling in mortars, air strikes, artillery and other fire support when the battlefield became too dangerous.
“The marines gave me my work ethic and the discipline that I use everyday as a cop,” Everett said.
When his four-year enlistment had come to a halt, Everett marched right back to his hometown on a quest for yet another uniform.
Initially, Everett signed on as a guard at Trenton State Prison in 1993.
“To start, you walk in and you’re kind of nervous…and then, you don’t become comfortable or complacent, you just get used to it,” he said. “That job taught me how to deal with people. If you want a convicted felon, who won’t get out of prison in his lifetime, to cooperate, you have to have the right tone and demeanor. It definitely gives you those kind of people skills.”
By 1995, a position in the Hamilton Township Police Division had opened up and Everett headed out to the academy in Burlington County for his training.
“I started out as a patrolman,” he said. “I still remember my first day on the job, I was sitting in the passenger seat of an Old Crown Victoria and you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.”
Much has changed since those early days, with the department, crime and even more so, the world.
“Back then, there was no computer and we didn’t have cell phones,” he said. “We had police radios in the car. But if they told you to call the station you had to go to a 7-11 or a payphone.”
In 2003, Everett and his wife, Nancy, decided to adopt a little girl from China, Isabella.
“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said of the Everett household’s pride and joy. “It means everything being there for her; taking her joys along with her and helping her through her pains.”
Eventually, the Patrolman scaled the ranks, promoted to Detective in 2008.
“I really enjoyed my time as a detective,” he said. “It felt good taking a crime from the very beginning, investigating it and helping the true victim or arresting a perpetrator.”
Everett was again tapped for a new title and duties in 2011, when he was named head of the Narcotics Unit and of community policing.
“The role of the narcotics officer hasn’t changed, but the drugs have – the availability of them, the cheaper prices,” he said. “Back in the day, your typical guy was smoking marijuana…today, it’s pills and heroine.”
Through community policing, which encompasses everything from neighborhood watch meetings to community outreach, the division hopes to combat what many media outlets have dubbed as an opioid “epidemic.”
“This program has been around forever,” he said. “We’re trying to get to the younger kids before they end up there down the road.”
As big of a role as his job has taken on in his life, Everett is poised for the next chapter at 2016’s end: retirement.
The hardest part will be saying goodbye to his second family, people like Chief James Collins and Executive Assistant AnnMarie Recchia, not to mention dozens of his fellow officers.
“I’ll definitely miss the people I work with,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss the Chief. I’m so grateful for everything he’s done for me.”
Between his wife, daughter, two stepchildren and three grandchildren, Everett expects his family will occupy much of the free time that retirement will bring.
“I’m a bit of a child myself,” Everett jokes. “There’s no doubt about it, I’m a big kid and I just love them all.”