IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Police Division has gained three new members, formerly of the East Orange Police Department, who transferred to the IPD prior to former East Orange Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley’s resignation, effective Friday, June 8.
One of those officers, Keishon Jonas, participated in the third annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally outside Orange Preparatory Academy School in Orange, organized by Reggie Miller on Saturday, June 2.
According to Miller, “one-third of all the gun murders in New Jersey,” are in Essex County, a point he tried to drive home at the third annual NGVA Day event.
“There was 100 and something murders right here in Essex County,” and about 400 statewide, said Miller on Saturday, June 2. “But in Essex County, it’s really the four cities, Orange, East Orange, Irvington and Newark, where it’s going down. So you can’t tell me these four cities that take up about 25 square miles or 20 square miles is capable of one-third of all the murders in this state, so I said I’ve got to do something about it.”
Jonas agreed. He came to the IPD, along with two other former EOPD officers. According to Officer Craig Epps, former president of the EOPD Fraternal Order of Police Local 111 union and Elaine Settle, president of the EOPD Policemen Benevolent Association Local 19, said the EOPD has suffered the loss of 32 officers since Coley was appointed the department’s director in 2015 by former East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor.
Jonas said he’s happy to be in the IPD and he’s still committed to protecting and serving the community.
“I grew up in Orange, from Heywood Avenue School, Orange Middle School, Orange High School. I don’t live in Orange now, but I’m still near; I live in East Orange,” said Jonas, 28. “You don’t have to become a product of your environment, just because you see somebody else doing something negative. Be a leader, not a follower. My point is, you can still dress young, wear nice clothes, have tattoos, look like this and do positive things.”
Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers agreed with Jonas.
“Public Safety is an all-hands-on-deck operation,” said Bowers on Monday, June 4. “Any and all stakeholders’ participation is welcome, because all of our destinies and safety is tied to each other’s. So the collaboration with police and community and all who want good is welcomed. In terms of gun violence, we must talk about it to successfully eradicate it.”
Bowers and Deputy Director John Brown served as members of East Orange Mayor Ted Green’s transition team’s Public Safety Committee, volunteering to help the new mayor design public safety policies to make his city safer, as Mayor Tony Vauss has promised in Irvington.
“They were hired because they actually were on our police list. It was three of them,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Feb. 13, regarding the former EOPD officers hired by the IPD. “It was never my desire to hurt East Orange by hiring them. I hope it doesn’t. But we do benefit from their previous training and experience. They were not lateral transfers.”
Green has stated that he is looking for a new public safety department director in East Orange. On Monday, June 4, he confirmed Coley’s resignation.
“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,” said Green on Monday, June 4. “We wish her very well in all of her future endeavors. She did a great job here in the city of East Orange.”
“We do have a process in place and as we move forward … we will be announcing her replacement,” said Green. “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, business administrator Solomon Steplight and the rest of the city’s search committee determine who Coley’s replacement will be, he will introduce that person to East Orange.
“The No. 1 thing is public safety,” said Green. “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 and residents 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.”