Verona Local 72 members Sean and Brian McMahon are grateful to be serving together in the town they call home
By Esther Gonzales
Within Verona Local 72, where most of its tight-knit members grew up in the small residential community, two brothers work side by side with the same vision — to do their best to keep their community safe.
Working the same shift, they answer calls together. And as they respond throughout Verona, there’s always someone who knows them.
Maybe they went to high school together or maybe they were loyal customers at the older brother’s local restaurant, Frank Anthony’s Gourmet Italian on Bloomfield Avenue.
Maybe they even were on the same soccer team when they were younger, bringing the brothers back to their childhood, when they rode their bicycles on the same streets they now patrol.
Verona is the town these blood brothers in blue have called home since 2004, when they moved back there. It is the town their Irish family has deep ties to since emigrating from Ireland in the 1930s.
Verona is the town where Sean and Brian McMahon dreamed of one day becoming law enforcement officers to serve and protect it.
“It’s a very good feeling going into work, knowing that even on the hardest days, at least I got my brother there,” Brian related. “There’s a family bond, but then there’s a different bond when you get into work and you’re doing this side by side.”
When Sean first came on the job with the Verona Police Department a few months ago, Brian remembers many people asking him if he was nervous to work with his older brother.
His reply was a resounding and confident “Absolutely not.”
In fact, working together was not new for the McMahon brothers. Brian had previously spent six years working at Sean’s restaurant, even while attending William Paterson University doing a double major in criminal justice and sociology. So he welcomed this chance that they had both dreamed of.
“It was almost like I didn’t believe it,” Brian explained. “To see Sean get the position and be sworn in with his wife and his daughter there, I was proud of him. We definitely have a close bond.”
That close bond was first formed in childhood when Sean often acted as a mediator between Brian and their middle brother, Tom.
As brothers often do, Brian and Tom would get into some roughhousing. Sean would be the one to step in, end the fights and straighten them out.
“Sean is a very calm-mannered person,” Brian described. “Growing up, he was always that peacekeeper between the brothers, and I feel like that pretty much carried over into his career in law enforcement.”
The closeness of the family spawned from their mother growing up with 12 siblings. Eventually, that side of the family grew almost exponentially. On many Sundays, Sean, Tom and Brian would get together with their dozen aunts and uncles and more than 40 cousins for dinner. And every summer, their family would rent a beach house on Long Beach Island.
“Family is priority to us,” Brian shared. “That was always the main thing growing up.”
Brian recalled that their journey in law enforcement began when he took the civil service test on a whim as an 18-year-old. At the time, he was still attending William Paterson. He worked summer internships with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Then the call came. His name popped up on the list for Verona PD. After completing the lengthy background process, he was offered the job in 2015 alongside a dozen high school friends.
“It’s good being so close with the guys you work with because you know how they’re going to react on calls,” Brian related. “There’s not really much instruction or even too much communication between the group. When we respond to calls together, you know that one person and what task they’re going to achieve without even having to be told to do so.”
All the while, Sean diligently worked full time at Frank Anthony’s.
By the time he turned 31, Sean had begun thinking about the future. With a few nudges from his brother, he finally pursued the career he had often envisioned.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” Sean expressed. “I was looking for a career change. We have our daughter now, so it’s just planning for the future.”
With encouragement from Brian, Sean completed the civil service test. And in 2019, he was hired by the Irvington Police Department.
“I told him, ‘Just get it, take the spot to get your foot in the door,’” Brian recalled. “Hopefully with the long-term goal of moving back to the hometown of Verona.”
After serving a year and a half with Irvington PD, Sean transferred to the West Orange Police Department. That’s when the COVID-19 pandemic spread through the state. By 2021, the department had mandated that all law enforcement officers join firefighters and all other municipal employees to receive the COVID vaccine.
Rallying together with a dozen other first responders, Sean decided to take a stand for what he believed in: not receiving the vaccine.
To his dismay, Sean was ultimately suspended for six months without pay. Here was another example of a shortsighted town management and department administration that lets officers leave due to not paying enough attention to the impact of unfavorable working conditions. And putting the safety of its officers and residents in jeopardy because of turmoil related to health benefits and labor relations.
“In my situation, I was only there for a year,” Sean explained. “So, it’s like, ‘I’ve only been here for a year, and this is how I’m being treated. I don’t want to spend 25 years of my life here.’”
Witnessing the situation, Brian knew his brother had transferred to West Orange because he thought they would have his back. During Sean’s suspension, Brian continually encouraged his brother to not give up on his dream and motivated him to apply to several police departments. Then, Sean finally received what must have seemed like a long overdue call from Verona PD.
“I called Brian right away,” Sean commented. “Since I started, I always had the goal to work in Verona with my brother. Being in Verona now, it’s a totally different ballgame. It’s awesome.”
When they’re off duty, you can still find Sean and Brian spending time together. They’ll be relaxing in Sean’s backyard, kicking
back, watching their dogs run around the yard. Or Sean will be watching Brian play with his 3-year-old daughter, perhaps thinking of the journey that led to where they are now.
“Going on calls with Sean, it’s like an extra sense of protection,” Brian remarked. “He would never do you any wrong, you know he’s going to be somebody that’s always there to have your back.”
Thinking back to how his dream has been realized, Sean shared what it has been like to work with his brother, just as he always wanted.
“Seeing Brian as a police officer, I got to admit, he’s probably one of the best cops I’ve seen on the job,” Sean revealed. “It’s really admirable.”
And once again, the brothers are right where they belong, side by side.
“Being here is a different feeling,” Sean added. “Being in Verona, it’s like being home.”