Article By William Westhoven reporter for the Dailyrecord.com
When the New Jersey State Police celebrates its centennial next spring, one young trooper will be able to trace his family's service in "the Outfit" all the way back to the Prohibition era.
Trooper Brian R. Turner, who graduated with the department's 160th class on Sept. 4, follows his father, William G. Turner, Jr., who enlisted in 1982 and retired in 2012 as a detective sergeant first class.
Father and son followed in the footsteps of Brian's grandfather, Capt. William G. Turner Sr., who joined up in 1958 and retired in 1987; and his great-grandfather, Sgt. John M. Turner, who hit the beat in 1930 and retired as the Netcong Station commander in 1957.
"It's pretty cool how there's four generations," the youngest Trooper Turner said. "I'm honored to wear the uniform and the fact that I had three generations ahead of me do it, it's neat."
Four consecutive family generations of State Police service is unprecedented in New Jersey, according to retired Lt. George J. Wren, Jr., vice president of the Association of Former New Jersey State Troopers, and editor of its True Blue & Gold newsletter.
The Turner ties to the department extend to another graduate of the 160th class: Brian’s first cousin, Trooper Michael A. Turner. They share the legacy of their paternal grandfather and great-grandfather.
"Troopers Brian and Michael Turner have 82 years of combined honor, duty and fidelity to live up to," Wren said. "I’m sure they will handle themselves in true Turner-State Police fashion."
The cousins also bunked together as 16-year-olds when they attended the New Jersey State Police 94th Trooper Youth Week training in 2013.
"That was a great time, to really get a feel for how a recruit lives for a week," Brian Turner said. "It was very similar to what the real deal is. You learn quick. I thought it was awesome. I wanted more."
Some seven years later on Sept. 4, he received badge No. 8535 in a ceremony at Arm & Hammer Stadium in Trenton. His cousin was given badge No. 8536. Most of their family and friends had to watch an online feed of the ceremony due to COVID-19 distancing restrictions.
"Each recruit got two tickets," said Brian Turner, who invited his mother and girlfriend. "I had a third because my dad was presenting me my badge."
"It was a little different with the coronavirus, so I wasn't actually able to give him his badge," said his father, William Turner Jr. He was able to walk on the field with Gov. Phil Murphy, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and Col. Patrick Callahan, the state police superintendent. "The colonel and I saluted Brian when his name was announced, and that took the place of giving him his badge," William Turner said.
It was a special moment for the entire family.
"We're extremely happy and proud," said William Turner. "It's not like we planned this. It just happened. You just wake up in the morning and shake your head. It's unbelievable."
Brian Turner said he was not pushed into uniform, but he's proud to carry on the family tradition, along with his brother, William Turner III, a five-year veteran of the Roxbury Police Department.
"Growing up, I was just always around the blue and gold," he said. "I applied to a bunch of local departments and they didn't work out. Then I had the opportunity with the State Police, and my dad was beyond excited. It's funny how things worked out."
Brian Turner "is now carrying on the tradition and legacy that his great-grandfather, Sgt. John M. Turner, began 90 years ago and 7,962 troopers later,” Callahan said.
A Blairstown resident, Turner is a 2014 graduate of North Warren High School and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting and business management from East Stroudsburg University. He later served as a football coach at North Warren.
Having completed two weeks of post-graduate training, Turner took his first shift out of the Somerville Station on Saturday.
"It was awesome," he said Wednesday. "I couldn't wait to get back in."
As a rookie trooper, Turner said he is sticking to the best piece of career advice his father gave him: "Be a sponge."
"Pay attention," his father told him. "It's not your time to talk. It's your time to listen."
His grandfather's advice?
"He was always big on hard work and being dedicated, basically the State Police values, having honor and carrying yourself with integrity," Brian Turner said of his grandfather, who died in 2012. "It's kind of a ripple effect in my family. It got passed down from my great-grandfather to my grandfather to my father, and now to my brother, sister and I."
“While I hope that somewhere down the line there is a fifth-generation trooper in the Turner family lineage," Callahan said, "it is my hope that a new legacy began on Sept. 4, 2020 when a first-generation New Jersey State Trooper graduated from the 160th class and will be the great-grandmother or great grandfather of a New Jersey State Trooper 90 years from now."