As two of the most ardent supporters of law enforcement in New Jersey – and even around the world – Dr. Caesar and Deanna DePaço have gone way above and beyond to bolster the blue line
By Mitchell Krugel
Photos by Ed Carattini Jr.
Beyond the 30-foot pole with the thin blue line flag, beyond the carved stone statue of a police officer on the front lawn, beyond the walls full of proclamations and tokens of appreciation gifted from agencies throughout the world, the most illustrious confirmation of Dr. Caesar and Deanna DePaço’s boundless backing of the blue looms almost unnoticeably. Their basement/museum showcases artifacts received from the DePaços’ many, many, many, many donations of crime-fighting gear, vehicles, equipment and K-9s – nearly 200 dogs and counting – to departments in almost all 50 states and other countries.
The walls of the basement are painted blue. It’s more than the appropriate decor to go with the blue plates, blue shot glasses and Blue Lives Matter napkins sitting on the magnificent bar in the room.
If these walls could talk, they would express how far above and beyond Caesar and Deanna have gone with their support. How they are kicking defunding the police in the you-know-whats with selfless and unprecedented generosity. How their relentless pay-it-forward mentality rubs off on everybody who benefits from and witnesses how they have become law enforcement’s best friends.
“I’ve been saying this for years with respect and admiration that I don’t want my daughters to live in a world without law enforcement,” Caesar gushes with a humility that goes above and beyond as well. “Obviously, I’m very anti–defunding the police. Unfortunately, some of these departments are being defunded. So that’s where we step in as much as we can.”
Having the DePaços pictured on the cover of this issue of NJ Cops Magazine is a distinction afforded to very few civilians. But it’s a distinction here that is well earned and well deserved, which is more than evident just by being welcomed into their humble home.
The trio of 30-foot flagpoles that also sport a green line flag for the military and another one for POWs and MIAs tips to the support that flows from the DePaços. And though they were never planned to be this way, the two stone lions standing watch on the steps leading into the house are reminiscent of those guarding the entrance to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The NJ State PBA’s friendship with the DePaços inspired them amid the pandemic in 2020, when they donated $25,000 to the Survivor and Welfare Fund to sponsor the purchase of a new Special Services trailer that lends support at events throughout New Jersey. They also sponsored the purchase of the drone the PBA uses to showcase images of its members doing their own philanthropy, as well as other endeavors of protecting and serving.
“There’s strong commitment that’s not just unwavering financial support, but just always making a positive statement,” PBA President Pat Colligan praises of the DePaços. “Even at the height of the response to the George Floyd incident, when it could have been very costly for him, Caesar was not shy about his position on law enforcement. I mean, you pull up to his house and there is no question that he is pro–law enforcement. There’s nothing undercover about what they do.”
Those basement walls are adorned with showcases full of badges Dr. DePaço has received. And a few Deanna has been presented.
He starts talking faster when giving a tour of his honors.
Pointing at one, he says, “This is me, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office honorary detective.”
He scans for the first badge he received as an honorary officer. Dr. DePaço thought it was from Hillsborough PD, to which he donated the first K-9 in 2013. But Deanna reminded him that was not the case.
“The first one I got was Flagler County Sheriff’s Office,” he revealed about the agency on the northeast coast of Florida to which he donated a K-9.
He runs through some of the others: Honorary chief with Hillsborough Township. Honorary commissioner with the borough of Peapack & Gladstone. Somerset County Sheriffs. Point Pleasant Beach. Daytona Beach. At least 20, including one from Brigham City, Utah, where they presented the most recent K-9.
“I always wanted to be in law enforcement,” Caesar commented.
But he couldn’t.
Dr. DePaço was born in Portugal and came to the U.S. in 1994. His mother is a U.S. citizen and made sure Caesar got a green card when they came over. He earned a Ph.D. in psychology, and at 30 wanted to get into law enforcement. But you have to be a U.S. citizen to become a cop.
“And I’m extremely patriotic. I believe in one nationality,” Dr. DePaço reasoned. “My citizenship is Portuguese, and I don’t
believe in dual citizenship. I never became a U.S. citizen, so this is my way of fulfilling my dream – helping law enforcement.”
His business is Summit Nutritionals International®, which manufactures bulk chondroitin sulfate made from avian, bovine, marine and porcine and is a raw material used by pharmaceutical companies. Prior to the company’s inception, raw nutritional supplements were primarily manufactured in Europe and other parts of the world. Summit Nutritionals is 100 percent U.S. made.
Deanna has put her MBA to use working on Summit Nutritionals for the past 12 years, beginning four years after she and Caesar were married. The success of the business has enabled their backing of the blue, for which they note their greatest reward is to be able to call those they help brothers and sisters in blue.
Caesar used to serve as the Portuguese consul for the state of Florida, and one of his official visits in 2018 to the Bristol, Massachusetts, PD resulted in living the dream.
“I was talking with the sheriff because 40 percent of his deputies were of Portuguese descent,” Dr. DePaço recalled. “He found out what I was doing for law enforcement. So he said, ‘Dr. DePaço, would you like to be a deputy with Bristol County Sheriff’s Office?’ And I said, ‘I would be honored, but I cannot because I’m not a U.S. citizen.’ And he got up and said, ‘Dr. DePaço, today you are a U.S. citizen.’ And I was sworn in.”
The millions of dollars the DePaços have donated and the thousands of people that has affected – some of whose lives have even been saved – began with the first K-9 gifted to the Hillsborough Township PD. Initially, they wanted to give their dog, Casanova, to Hillsborough, but Deanna and their daughters had grown too attached to him.
Then-Hillsborough Chief Paul Kaminski, now the undersheriff in Somerset County, acknowledged how he had been trying to get the town to authorize a K-9 program, but funding had become precarious. He figured it was a nonstarter, when the DePaços wanted to keep Casanova.
“I told him, ‘I appreciate the offer,’ and he’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. My word is gold,’” Kaminski shared. “That’s how the relationship started. He went from there to assist us with vehicles, Tasers and weapons. Anything that we needed that we felt that was difficult to offset the budget and purchase, he came through. He’s a true friend of law enforcement.”
Hillsborough’s first K-9 officer was Chris Englehardt, who went to Florida to pick up that first dog. Shortly thereafter, he became the DePaços’ confidant in helping to orchestrate all future donations.
After donating that first dog, Deanna started noticing posts of K-9s being lost in the line of duty. That’s when they stepped up their support nationally.
“It started as a tragic endeavor, and then it’s just expanded and grown to other things,” she explained. “You start to become part of the group, feeling what they’re feeling, their trials and tribulations. It becomes emotional, and it’s something unsurmountable. You can’t even put words to it. So that became our addiction, seeing what we could do to help out.”
Englehardt adds that five or 10 minutes after seeing a post that an officer was hurt or a dog was lost, he gets a call from the DePaços to reach out to the agency and ask what they need. Sometimes, a chief would not believe him and would ask for the contact info of another agency that had received a donation, almost like a makeshift background check.
The agency would quickly find out that the benefactors had no interest in what’s in it for them.
“They soon find out that it’s strictly from the family’s heart,” Englehardt accentuated. “It was mind-blowing that somebody would want to help law enforcement the way they do. It’s hard to imagine that someone could give $50,000 or $75,000 or a brand-new, fully equipped Tahoe to agencies for K-9s. It’s where their heart is.”
The trail of donations leads from New Jersey to Florida to Texas to California and even Alaska, where they have gifted two K-9s. They donate Harley-Davidsons to motors units and the trailers to transport the bikes.
But it’s not a gravy train. If a department or other police organization emails Caesar or Deanna, they will forward it to Englehardt. If it’s one from New Jersey, chances are, he probably knows somebody there. If it’s outside the state, he makes a few calls.
The standard is to make sure the department really does require assistance and funding, and it’s not an officer trying to take advantage of the DePaços’ affinity for contributing.
“If we come to the conclusion that the department really requires our assistance, they don’t have the funds and they really need equipment, then we definitely step in,” Englehardt added.
Dr. DePaço confided that he wishes he could do way more. That wish seems to come true.
As he was guiding the tour of the pieces in the basement, he stopped to share an email he received from the Ocean County Police Academy. The academy previously had contacted the sheriff’s office for help with purchasing new gym equipment.
Then, the DePaços toured the academy and met with staff. They saw the recruits training in the gym on defensive tactics. As of the first view of the email requesting support, they had not decided on the donation. A minute or so afterward, the assistance was in the works.
“This donation is going to affect every cop that goes through that police academy because they use that throughout their training,” Englehardt noted about the impact of the donations.
But it’s not just about grand gestures.
Somerset County Sheriff Darrin Russo, who deputized the DePaços’ current German shepherd, Lanzer, submitted that they recently provided bicycles and accompanying attire and equipment for the Franklin Township PD neighborhood police team. And a few years ago, Sheriff Russo was visiting the DePaços at their home when Russo told them he had to leave because he was going on an early bike ride the next day.
“He says, ‘Oh, you ride a bike.’ I told him it was for the Police Unity Tour. I told him about it and that my son and I were riding it. He said, ‘I’ll sponsor the both of you to ride,’” Sheriff Russo recounted. “You know, it’s very rare that you find someone that’s that giving and caring for police. He just doesn’t stop giving.”
Manifestation of the DePaços’ kindness flows from the heir of the dog. They had witnessed the power of K-9s when they went to Kansas City in 2013 to see Casanova become certified.
They brought him back to Jersey to be their executive protection dog but soon realized there might be a higher calling for him. That was when the DePaços connected with Kaminski and Englehardt. And also when their oldest daughter, Valentina, who was 3 years old at the time, fell in love with Casanova.
The heir to Casanova was a gorgeous black Belgian Malinois named Kondro, a dual-purpose narcotics and patrol dog Englehardt had for seven years.
“He kept me in the game,” Englehardt confirmed.
Therein lies the legacy. Kaminski relates how the K-9s assist on a day-to-day basis, whether doing a bomb sweep, a narcotics sweep or search and rescue. He has seen how the dogs find individuals with Alzheimer’s who have wandered away and gotten lost in the woods.
They do law enforcement work that can otherwise not be done. And they are a valuable part of community policing.
“Letting the community see the dogs in action, it starts a dialogue and is a great resource into building community relationships,” Kaminski added. “These K-9s continue to give eight, nine, 10 years within their career. It’s a gift that keeps on giving and making differences in the community year after year.”
Sheriff Russo documented how the K-9 unit in the sheriff’s office has doubled with the help of the DePaços. They recently received two more, with an additional donation of a vehicle for each dog.
They named the first one Casanova. The second accentuates the true heir of the dog. His name is Caesar.
They are part of one of the latest and greatest assets of having a K-9. Putting a bite into the anti-police rhetoric.
“We’ve probably tripled the amount of demonstrations we do at schools, places of worship and businesses,” Russo stated. “People call to have us come out, and we’ll put a little show on for dog training. And it opens people’s eyes.”
The return on investment for their backing would be the wave from others in communities across the state to pay it forward to law enforcement they hope will start flowing. The smile from Deanna when contemplating this comes via the belief that she and Caesar are spreading good cheer for others to recognize that law enforcement is something to be honored, respected and rewarded.
And for officers to feel as much.
“We want them to wake up in the morning and want to go to work,” she continued. “We want new recruits to know that there is support, to know that there is a community of people willing to assist and willing to give them a vote for a brighter future.”
The accolades that reinforce their efforts come from occurrences like what happened to Dr. DePaço when he was on Interstate 287 a few years ago. He has active and retired officers drive him, and he happened to be on the road this particular morning when a group of NJ State Police vehicles came up alongside.
“As they drove by my truck, they all gave me the thumbs-up and turned on the lights and the sirens to me,” he disclosed.
They don’t see the impact like the officers and their agencies do. The beating that many department budgets take often leads to vehicles and equipment being pushed beyond their limits.
“Without the support, most agencies would be down in stuff that they need,” Englehardt revealed. “And then agencies
suffer, the officers suffer and their safety suffers. Together, the DePaços make sure that law enforcement officers have exactly what they need and want to do the job safely.”
Putting a number on how much they have donated is not easy.
“I know firsthand it is well into the millions,” Englehardt added.
Colligan applied another formula to define the exponential support from the DePaços.
“It’s impossible to do the math. How many people were found, how many suspects were apprehended, how many kilos and pounds of drugs were confiscated,” the PBA president exclaimed. “They have done more for law enforcement than a lot of law enforcement officers have done in their entire careers.”