Police sergeant chosen as township’s ‘Kids Cop’

Photo by Chris Sykes
Sgt. Sheyla Marquez-Cepeda of the Irvington Police Division, center, sits with two smiling children outside the Municipal Building in D. Bilal Beasley Square on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the annual Tree-Lighting and Toy Giveaway. Mayor Tony Vauss recently appointed Marquez-Cepeda to serve as the Public Safety Department’s official Children’s Cop or Kid’s Cop, tasked with handling all child and underage youth incidents and issues in the township community.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Irvington police Sgt. Sheyla Marquez-Cepeda has been officially designated as the township’s “Kids Cop,” assigned to handle all issues related to children in town in the same manner that Detective Marcus Smith has been assigned to deal with public safety issues regarding Irvington’s senior citizens.

“She’s been reassigned to the mayor’s detail,” said Mayor Tony Vauss, who made the announcement about Marquez-Cepeda’s new assignment on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony and Gift Giveaway in D. Bilal Beasley Square. “We believe this is a good thing for the township, especially our children and youth.”

Vauss said assigning Marquez-Cepeda, who has been instrumental in helping organize community events involving Irvington’s Police and Fire departments, including the annual Halloween Spectacular and National Night Out, to be Irvington’s official “Kids Cop” was the right thing, like assigning Smith to handle senior issues. He said it’s another example of the innovative policing tactics Tracy Bowers has initiated since he was appointed as the Public Safety Department director.

“It’s really about putting officers in assignments where they can best serve the community,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Dec. 11. “In this case, Sgt. Marquez-Cepeda has always had the temperament to work with kids. She works well with them. You can tell by the way they respond to her with smiles and excitement. So assigning her to a unit where she interacts with kids is a win for the department and the community.”

Bowers said Marquez-Cepeda’s new assignment is also a way to make the Irvington Police Department more efficient. He said assigning her and Smith to handle non-emergency calls dealing with children, youths and seniors gives the department more flexibility to focus on other, more serious calls.

Bowers said seniors have taken to Smith “because of his patience and understanding of their concerns, which is mainly to be heard and recognized as important people in the township, which they are.”

Both Bowers and Vauss said the decisions to reassign Marquez-Cepeda and Smith were the result of a collaborative effort between the Mayor’s Office, the Public Safety Department and the Irvington Police Department.

“It’s a little collaboration between me and the mayor,” said Bowers on Friday, Nov. 9, at the Irvington Senior Citizens Center’s annual pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Dinner and Turkey Giveaway. “The mayor has a lot of ideas and it’s my job to make those things come true, to actually bring his vision into reality.”

Vauss, on the other hand, deferred to Bowers.

“All the credit, when it comes to law enforcement, goes to this man here,” said Vauss on Friday, Nov. 9, gesturing toward Bowers. “He’s the reason our township is safer. He’s the reason why crime is down. And that’s why he’s the leader of our Public Safety Department.”

Bowers said assigning Smith to handle community issues and seniors concerns was an attempt to streamline the way the Irvington Police Department handles calls from the entire township.

“It’s streamlined, so that way the cops on the streets handle the emergency phone calls,” said Bowers. “If the seniors call the police, of course we’ll come, but … there’s a process you have to go through. But here it’s streamlined. Detective Smith, he comes right out.”

Vauss said Smith’s current assignment also helps prioritize calls from the general public for service.

“Sometimes, they call Detective Smith because there’s a cat stuck in a tree,” said Vauss. “So we don’t want to take the cops off the street, because there’s a cat stuck in a tree. That’s his job, to take care of the cat stuck in the tree.”

Both Vauss and Bowers said the early feedback on Smith and Marquez-Cepeda’s new assignments has been positive.

“What happens is, Detective Smith works in the Office of the Mayor, so he handles all community complaints, not just seniors. Any community complaints, he personally handles those and deals with those folks, one on one,” Vauss said. “When you call the cops for an emergency, they say, ‘We want you to dial 9-1-1; we want you to get the service you need.’ But if there’s other concerns that you have, you’ll reach Detective Smith. He will come out, get your information, follow up and make sure you get the proper services that you need.”

Marquez-Cepeda said she’s happy to be serving the township and the community in a new capacity and she plans to get right down to work as soon as possible.

“Every event that we do is geared to the youth,” said Marquez-Cepeda on Thursday, Dec. 6. “We want them to have a good experience. We want them have great memories so we do our best to bring that to them. Some of these children this might have been the only gift they can get tonight for Christmas so we fulfilled that.”

According to Marquez-Cepeda, since she’s now Irvington’s official ‘Kids Cop,’ she does get a special badge, even though Vauss said Smith did not get a special badge.

“I got a Junior Patrol badge,” Marquez-Cepeda said. “I can show it to you next time.”