Retired New Milford Police Chief Ted Adams, whose career in New Milford spanned from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, is being remembered this week for his commitment to law enforcement.

A New Milford native, Mr. Adams died Saturday at the age of 78 after a long illness.

Mr. Adams, who started in law enforcement as part of the town's constabulary in 1962, rose to the rank of sergeant after the New Milford Police Department was established in 1969.

His career proceeded quickly, as he was promoted to lieutenant and then to chief of police in early 1973, serving as the second chief in the department's history for nearly 12 years prior to his retirement in December 1984.

"He was a heck of a cop," said Norbert Lillis, who served under Mr. Adams and took over as acting chief upon his retirement in 1984.

"Everybody respected Ted. He did a good job," observed Mr. Lillis, who retired from the NMPD last year after more than four decades with the force.

"He knew how to handle people," he said. "As an administrator, he was first-rate, fair and straightforward. [He was] tough when he had to be tough but, if you were in the right, he would stand up for you to the end."

Mr. Adams was a graduate of New Milford High School and the FBI National Academy and earned a bachelor's degree in police administration from the University of New Haven.

His son, Theodore R. Adams Jr., related his father had been a U.S. Navy veteran, serving in the submarine division during the Korean War.

Before coming to the New Milford constabulary, Mr. Adams had been with the Connecticut State Police, serving in the Canaan barracks for a year, his son said.

Bill McMahon, who was New Milford's resident state trooper from 1963 to 1969, remembered Mr. Adams as a young constable.

"He was a very friendly, outgoing guy," Mr. McMahon said Monday. "I could always depend on him.

"He'd served in the armed forces, and he knew how to take orders and carry them out," he recalled. "I was not surprised when he made chief of the newly formed department."

"It meant a lot to him to serve the town," said Ted Adams Jr. "I looked up to him as children will. He was a good dad; he always had time for me."

The police station at 49 Poplar St. was draped with black bunting on Monday morning in memory of Mr. Adams.

When Mr. Adams was chief, the department was located on Church Street in the annex to the New Milford Town Hall.

"We're saddened to learn that retired Chief Ted Adams passed away on Saturday,'' said Lt. Larry Ash, the NMPD spokesman. "Ted was a kind, caring, compassionate person who was deeply committed to the community, and I know he will be sorely missed."

Lt. Ash, whose father, Bob Ash, served with Mr. Adams, said he had known Mr. Adams since he was a child.

"It came as a shock,'' Lt. Ash said of Mr. Adams' death.

Mr. Adams' tenure as chief was marked at times by controversy, including the arrest of four police officers in 1981 and 1982. The scandal originated with the arrest of Sgt. Robert Rinko, who was found to have stolen items from businesses and schools around the community.

Yet throughout that controversy, the Police Commission never doubted Mr. Adams' integrity or "dedication to the department or the town," said former Police Commission chairman Andy Armstrong.

"Ted was up front," Mr. Armstrong recalled, "a fellow you had to like.

"His was a familiar face in the town," he related. "He would go out on the street, walk around and talk to the townspeople. He will be remembered fondly by those who served with him."

In the last year, Mr. Adams had attended several of the department's promotional ceremonies, including the swearing-in of Chief Shawn Boyne, who accepted the oath of office on Oct. 15, 2010.

The family is making funeral arrangements through the Lillis Funeral Home in New Milford.