Baraka shuffles officers in top ranks of police department

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 02, 2014

Newark Police Director Sheilah Coley (left) hugs Newark Police Chief Ivonne Roman at the State of the City address earlier this year.

 

NEWARK — Newark mayor Ras Baraka has demoted six deputy chiefs, officials confirmed.

The city asked the New Jersey Civil Service Commission for permission to demote six of its eight deputy chiefs on Aug. 8. The commission approved the request a month later, according to commission spokesman Peter Lyden.

The demotions are scheduled to take effect on Nov. 14, Lyden said.

Baraka said in a statement that the demotions were part of an effort to put 70 percent of the police force working in neighborhoods. As captains, the officers can act as field supervisors, Baraka said.

“We need our police personnel to be in the field with the men and women they command and interacting with the residents they are sworn to serve,” Baraka said.

“Having them in the street will increase the productivity of our force. Now that 21st century technology has transformed patrol cars into command centers, our supervisors can come out from behind their desks to manage and lead our police officers in person and by example.”

He added the police department will save a projected $2 million in city resources through the demotions. It's unclear over how much time those savings are projected for.

But Newark Superior Officers Association president John Chrystal criticized Baraka's move to demote the deputy chiefs as an excuse to push officers off the force.

“I think they are trying to get people to retire,” he said.

Meanwhile, former police director Sheilah Coley and former police chief Ivonne Roman were demoted to the role of captain, the city confirmed.

After Coley and Roman were taped to lead the Newark police department, Mayor Luis Quintana announced earlier this year he was giving Coley, Roman, and one other officer the deputy chief title. A ceremony was held in April to celebrate the promotion, Chrystal said.

But Quintana's administration never sent in the qualifying paperwork to the civil service commission, according to Chrystal.

Once Baraka took office, his administration informed the civil service commission that they were only promoting the other officer to deputy chief, not Roman or Coley, Chrystal said.

"In technical terms, they got screwed,” he said of the former director and chief. Coley and Roman could not immediately be reached for comment.

But the city maintains Coley and Roman were never promoted in the first place, and they simply returned to their previous roles before becoming director and chief, said spokeswoman Sakina Cole.

Coley was named police chief in 2011, after serving as police captain and commander of the Internal Affairs Unit. They were named police director and police chief earlier this year.

The appointments marked the first time women held the two highest posts in the state's largest police department.

Editor's Note: this story has been changed to reflect the fact that former police director Sheilah Coley and former police chief Ivonne Roman were not part of the six deputy chiefs who were demoted to captains.

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