Coley resigning as EO Public Safety Department director

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Public Safety Department Director Sheilah Coley has officially submitted her letter of resignation to Mayor Ted Green and city administrator Solomon Steplight.

“Good evening, I wanted you to hear it from me first,” said Coley on Tuesday, May 29, via text message to a Record-Transcript reporter. “I resigned as public safety director, effective Friday, June 8.”

Green confirmed Coley’s resignation Monday, June 4.

“She decided that, during her time here, she accomplished the things she had to do, in terms of moving the department forward. There’s a lot going on there,” Green said. “We wish her very well in all of her future endeavors. She did a great job here in the city of East Orange.”

Green made it clear his administration would be moving quickly to find a suitable successor to Coley, saying that process has already begun.

“We do have a process in place and, as we move forward, we will be announcing her replacement,” he said. “I, the mayor, will be making the announcement about who will be the next Public Safety director. There is a screening process going on right now. We have 15 people that we’re looking at.”

Green said once he and the city’s search committee determine who Coley’s replacement will be, he won’t hesitate to present that person to the East Orange City Council for confirmation. He reiterated his plans to make public safety the top priority in his administration.

“The No. 1 thing is public safety,” Green said. “We want people to feel that we’re doing everything we can to draw people, commerce, investment and development to our community, and improving public safety is the first step in doing that. We’ve got to make sure that people feel safe and secure when they come to our city to visit, shop, socialize or do business and we want our citizens … to know that their safety and well-being are important to us, just like it is to them. Public safety is our No. 1 priority to grow this city.”

Coley submitted her letter of resignation after the council’s meeting Tuesday, May 29.

“I learned that she was resigning that night on May 29, right after the council meeting,” said 2nd Ward Councilman Romal D. Bullock on Tuesday, June 5. “I definitely commend Sheilah on her time as the Public Safety Department director and wish her the best moving forward.’

First Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis serves as chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety Committee and official liaison to the PSD and its divisions. She was unavailable for comment about Coley’s resignation by press time this week.

Attempts to contact East Orange Police Department PBA Local 16 President Elaine Settle or EOPD Fraternal Order of Police Local 111 President Anthony Taylor for comment about Coley’s resignation were unsuccessful by press time this week.

According to the NJ State Police 2017 Uniform Crime Report, East Orange recorded increases in assault, from 17 reported cases in October 2016 to 24 in 2017; burglary, from 11 in 2016 to 16 in 2017; larceny-theft, from 41 in 2016 to 46 in 2017; and an overall increase in the city’s crime index, from 112 to 118 and in violent crime, from 33 to 39 incidents.

According to the state police website, nonviolent crime remained stable, at 79 from October 2016 to October 2017; motor vehicle theft decreased, from 26 to 15; simple assault declined, from 95 to 65; robbery decreased, from 14 to 12; rape increased, from 2 to 3; and homicides stayed the same. There were six homicides in the city in 2017, however, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Earlier this year, Lewis cited other statistics showing there had been recent improvements in public safety during Coley’s tenure, when she and a council majority voted to extend Coley’s 90-day appointment as the acting director of the PSD by 45 more days, during Green’s first 100 days in office.

“In July 2017, crime in East Orange was up 29 percent. Director Coley was placed over in operations in an effort to reduce that percentage. Her strategy and expertise, along with her staff assistance, brought crime down 20 percent in our city. That is progress!” Lewis said.

This progress, however, was not enough to keep Coley from resigning, effective this week.