Newark Swears in its First Female Police Chief

Sheila Coley, moments before being sworn in as Newark's first female chief of police. Coley promised to improve relations between her department and the community, and to crack down on violence in the city. AP/Julio Cortez.

On Aug. 9, Newark Mayor Cory Booker swore in Sheila Coley, the city’s first chief of police since the position was dissolved in 2008 and its first female chief.

“What makes her so extraordinary as a leader is not her gender or her race but her competency and her proven contributions to the city police department,” said Booker.

Coley has served in a wide variety of positions during her 22-year career with the Newark Police Department, reported the Star-Ledger. She started off as a patrol cop in Newark’s East Ward. After rising to the rank of sergeant, Coley became a lieutenant and was put in charge of the department’s sex crimes unit. Most recently, she was head of Internal Affairs.

“That squad was a disaster, administratively, investigatively. She turned it around,” Mark Whitley, a retired captain, told the Star-Ledger after Coley’s appointment was announced. “She was a godsend.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, Coley swore to make it a priority to improve relations between the department and the community, and put a halt to the city’s recent surge in gun violence.

“I will be in the community. I will listen to the community and together we will come up with resolutions to move this city forward, ” Coley said. “This is a city that we all love. We should not be on opposite ends of the spectrum,” reported the Star-Ledger.

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NJToday’s David Cruz reports on the appointment of Sheila Coley, Newark’s first female police chief. Coley has served with the Newark police force for 22 years.

The  appointment of Newark’s first female police chief  prompted support from many in the room, and even had the backing of New Jersey’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently called the federal government to investigate civil rights violations by the department.

Coley was appointed the same day City Council approved the hiring of  25-year police veteran Samuel DeMaio as permanent police director. The previous police director, Garry McCarthy, left to run the Chicago Police Department. In 2008, controversy erupted when McCarthy — who in 2005 had fought claims that he was drunk and disorderly after his daughter received a parking ticket — was approved as director.

Despite an overall drop in crime during his tenure in Newark, trouble continued to follow McCarthy. An epic power struggle occurred the same year McCarthy was hired, between the police director and Police Chief Anthony Campos, which ultimately forced Booker to dissolve the latter’s position, reported WNYC.

At the press conference, DeMaio said he hopes to avoid those types of strained inter-departmental relations in order to better serve the city. “I look forward to having even more successes than we’ve had so far. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us and with the leadership team that the Mayor and the Council have put together here I feel very confident that we’re going to do great things here in the City of Newark,” said DeMaio.

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