The first woman to run the Newark’s Police Department was appointed on Wednesday.
Mayor Cory Booker named Captain Sheilah Coley as the new acting police chief.
Acting Police Director Samuel DeMaio was also confirmed on a permanent basis by the Municipal Council. He took over the position three months ago from Garry McCarthy, who left to become the Chicago Police Department’s Superintendent.
“Today is a historic moment for our City and our Police Department, as we promote from within our ranks,” Mayor Booker said of Coley in a statement. “One of our most professional, dedicated, and deserving police officers, making her the first woman to hold this rank.”
Coley joined the department in 1989 and patrolled the city’s West and East Districts. She rose through the ranks from detective to sergeant to lieutenant in 2000, when she became the commander of the Sexual Assault Rape Analysis Unit.
“When she came to the sex crimes unit, it was a little bit in disarray, and she straightened the whole place out,” said Captain John Chrystal, president of the Newark Police Superior Officers’ Association, referring to the way Coley handled administrative problems Chrystal said the unit was riddled with at the time.
Chrystal said he worked with Coley over the past two decades and described her as “fair, but no nonsense type of person.”
“She’s qualified for the position,” he added. “She can get the job done. She’s proven herself.”
Coley most recently served as the head of the department’s office of internal affairs, a position to which she was appointed by DeMaio in May. As the acting police chief, she will supervise the day-to-day running of the department, which has over 1,100 officers. Coley will report to DeMaio, who will handle policy and budget decisions.
This is the first time that a police chief has been appointed in Newark since 2008. The position was eliminated after a battle over territory between McCarthy and Anthony Campos, who served as the police chief. Coley was appointed after the Municipal Council voted on Wednesday to reinstate the position.
“I promise my brothers and sisters in blue that I will give them the highest level of professional leadership and the citizens of Newark the best police force in the entire nation,” Coley said in a statement.