This N.J. director is a model for police across the country, AG says. He’s retiring.

Posted Jan 27, 2021

Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose will retire March 31 after working 34 years in local law enforcement and overseeing several reforms among the city police.

Ambrose was named the city’s first public safety director in late 2015, when the police, fire and emergency management departments were consolidated under Mayor Ras Baraka. His departure announcement comes less than a month after the city appointed Lee Douglas as acting police chief when Darnell Henry retired.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done by my successor, but I’m pleased to be leaving the Police and Fire Divisions and the Office of Emergency Management in a better place than it was when I arrived five years ago,” Ambrose said in a statement Wednesday. “Mayor Baraka has been my strongest supporter, a great boss and will remain a good friend.”

He joined the Newark police in 1986 as an officer and was promoted to chief in 1999. In 2006, he became the police department director while also working as an Essex County undersheriff. He was hired as chief of detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in 2008.

“His service to the City of Newark has been paramount. I appreciate all that he has given, and I hope for nothing but the best in his retirement,” Baraka said in a statement.

Newark in 2013 had the nation’s third-highest murder rate among other large cities with about 111 homicides, but that number has steadily decreased under Ambrose’s tenure. There were 52 homicides reported in Newark in 2020, according to department data, and overall crime in the city reached a 50-year low in 2018.

Ambrose has been recognized by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito for his collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement to reduce crime.

But he’s also been known as a reformer.

The director has been at the helm when the city and police division entered into a list of reforms about five years ago called a consent decree. The police division has been under federal monitoring since then.

The consent decree was reached after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report in 2014 that found a pattern of unconstitutional practices among the city’s police.

Since then, Ambrose has supported the mayor and city council’s decision to divert $11 million from the police department to social services in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The police department has also instituted guidelines for interacting with people from diverse backgrounds.

Police body cameras were also rolled out under Ambrose’s tenure. His retirement announcement comes just a day after Ambrose expanded the use of body cameras to plainclothes officers in the wake of a fatal police-involved shooting.

“As an innovator and collaborator, Director Ambrose set an example for law enforcement throughout New Jersey, and indeed across the nation,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

James Stewart, the Newark Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 12 president, said Ambrose built a good relationship with the union, resulting in fewer grievances that saved both sides money. He praised the director for the way he handled the protests in Newark after Floyd’s death, too.

“People looking in don’t realize everything he manages, how much he accomplishes, the knowledge he brings to the table,” Stewart said. “But they will when he is gone.”

It’s unclear if Ambrose intends to work after retirement. But Newark Fire Officers Union President Anthony Tarantino hopes to see him continue to work for the city in some capacity.

“I believe he’s a good man,” Tarantino told NJ Advance Media. “I believe he’s added a lot of structure to the fire department.”

Pension records show Ambrose makes $260,000 annually. It was previously reported that his salary was paid for by Essex County through a shared services agreement.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-01-28 02:35:53 -0800