Irvington PSD director helps East Orange find new PSD director

Photo by Chris Sykes
Irvington Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers, fourth from left, watches as East Orange Mayor Ted Green, center, announces the appointment of Dominick Saldida, third from left, as his city’s new Public Safety Department director on Monday, Dec. 17, during a press conference in the East Orange Police Division Headquarters on South Munn Avenue.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Reaching across township lines, Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers recently assisted East Orange Mayor Ted Green in finding a new director to replace Sheila Coley, who resigned abruptly on Tuesday, May 29 from the department.

At a press conference in East Orange Police Division Headquarters on South Munn Avenue on Monday, Dec, 17, Green announced the appointment of former Newark Police Department Deputy Chief Dominick Saldida to serve as new director of the East Orange Public Safety Department. He said Saldida’s appointment is the culmination of an interview process begun immediately after Coley’s unexpected resignation that involved as many as 15 candidates, which he narrowed down to three before selecting Saldida.

Green said he based his decision to hire Saldida on the recommendation of his PSD Director Search Team, consisting of Bowers, Ronald Salahuddin, William Oliver and Lt. David Whatley of the NPD, all of whom previously served on his Transition Team Public Safety Committee, after he won the city’s 2017 mayoral election.

Bowers said it was his “pleasure to be selected to serve” on Green’s Transition Team and the PSD Director Search Team panel, because “Public safety is the cornerstone of any successful administration and community.” He said it’s difficult for communities such as Irvington and East Orange “to flourish in areas like economic growth, community development, etc.,” without public safety, which is why it was so important to find the right man or woman to serve as East Orange’s new PSD director.

“We worked countless hours in developing questions and scenarios that would give us a best gauge of who would be the best candidate,” said Bowers on Monday, Dec. 17, at the press conference announcing Saldida’s appointment. “So we did that. We went through the process and we came out with a candidate that we felt that we could recommend to the mayor, who would do a great job for the city of East Orange.”

Bowers said the panel chose to recommend Saldida for a number of reasons.

“Of course you’re going to count law enforcement experience. In this case, Saldida, he rose to the rank of deputy chief in the big city of Newark, so that counts for tremendous amount of experience, and his record was stellar,” Bowers said. “He also led another agency, which was the Dover Police Department, and in that agency, he did well. So it was a natural progression, where we put all of the information out on the table, we gathered and mixed and mingled and all that stuff, and we made a recommendation to the mayor and he went with our recommendation.”

Bowers described Green’s decision to trust the search panel’s recommendation as “a great testament to the work of that panel.”

“We worked long hours in trying to make sure we put forth a viable candidate for the mayor, because, at the end of the day, it’s just not East Orange,” he said. “It’s the contiguous borders and the townships around you that you have to think about when you’re talking about relationships and fighting crime. It’s an initiative, where you have to do it together. You can’t do it alone. It won’t work.”

Bowers pointed to the recent collaboration between Green and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to form the joint Border Patrol Program, composed of officers from both municipalities’ police forces, to patrol the shared borders between their respective municipalities, as an example of the kind of cooperation modern law enforcement agencies need. He and Mayor Tony Vauss previously noted that Irvington has been working with the NPD to patrol their common borders for the last four years and is interested in partnering with other nearby municipalities, such as Union Township, Hillside and Maplewood, to do the same along their shared borders.

Bowers said partnerships such as that are the key to improving public safety and fighting crime, because many of the neighboring communities also share some of the same concerns as Irvington.

“Crime has no borders. You figure we’re urban. Irvington, East Orange, Newark and Orange, we all have the same issues,” said Bowers. “It’s the same cast of characters, by and large, so we have to put our energy and resources together to address those specific people who just don’t stay in Irvington, just don’t stay in East Orange. They’re mobile. They’re gone. They’re in transit. So we’ve got to make that adaptation, too, and we make that by having relationships with each other and sharing the intelligence, so we can fight on that front.”

Bowers said fighting crime at home in Irvington and abroad in the surrounding communities really is a “never-ending struggle,” but that ongoing fight just got a little easier, with Green appointing Saldida as the director of the East Orange Public Safety Department.

“It’s done, as far as the panel is concerned, because they’ve made their selection,” said Bowers. “But the relationship makes it not done, because that’s a continuous thing and I look forward to working with Public Safety Director Saldida, as well as the other directors in the area, like Newark, Orange, Irvington, Maplewood. The directors and chiefs, we all get along well, and that’s a tremendous thing, when you’re talking about fighting crime and collaboration.”

Green previously served as Irvington’s Building Department director in the Vauss administration, prior to being elected mayor of East Orange in 2017.

“Public safety has always been my top priority and I am excited to bring on a strong and committed leader, who can provide a fresh perspective on lowering crime and better enhancing the quality of life for our residents,” said Green on Monday, Dec. 17. “Mr. Saldida officially completes my new administrative team and we are ready to make significant progress, moving into 2019. He has over 30 years of public safety experience, rising through the ranks of the Newark Police Department to become deputy chief by the time he retired from that department. Most recently, he served as the Public Safety director in Dover Township. Today, I am extremely proud to welcome Dominick Saldida to the East Orange family.”

Saldida said he’s very happy to be in the new role.

“This is a very, very exciting time in my life,” said Saldida on Monday, Dec. 17. “The Public Safety Transition Team — the panel that sat there countless hours made a very, very hard decision and was willing to take a chance on me — they gave their knowledge of what they heard and what they saw and what was there in the hard skills of the resume to the great mayor of the city of East Orange, Ted Green, and he made his decision and I thank them.”

Saldida described Bowers as “another great friend and a colleague from many moons ago.” He thanked him and Green’s other members of the Transition Team Public Safety Committee and PSD Director Search Team for shepherding him through the selection process.

“Let me start off by saying, today, mayor, I thank you, from down in my heart. This mayor is energetic, he has a vision and he has passion and, ladies and gentlemen, the reason that I chose to accept that position that the mayor offered me is because I bought into his program. He made me excited. He made me feel like I was part of East Orange, without even being here yet. His vision and the way he wants to attack certain things and make people happy, the vision is my vision,” said Saldida.

Saldida also said he’s ready to hit the ground running as the city’s new PSD director.

“In the next 45 days, I will be conducting an assessment of the entire Police Department, Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management,” he said. “Liaison (Jose) Cordero that’s here, a past police director in the city of East Orange, came back, did a survey, did some work here and has implemented some things already that are working way beyond my imagination. And I’m going to build on that liaison Cordero and I’m going to move forward, with your permission, and work together with you and the chief to make this one of the greatest police departments in the country.”

Saldida also elaborated on some of the details of the PSD departmental assessment he’s going to undertake.

“What’s important in this assessment is to take a look at everything,” he said. “This is not a sprint. This is going to be a long, long haul. This is going to be going cross country and we’re going to do it together, not by myself. I need a team. I need the people in this room to go forward. I need everyone to come together and make this city the best city around.”