EAST ORANGE, NJ — At a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 17, in East Orange City Hall’s Council Chambers, 12 police officers were promoted in the presence of their family, friends and peers. East Orange Police Department Lts. Alton Jackson, Ronson Johnson and Michael Williams Jr. and Sgts. Howard L. Adams Jr., Telina R. Hairston, Gregory S. Jackson, Calvin E. Plummer Jr., Anthony Taylor, Keanna Thorne, Jamal F. Washington, Robert Wright Jr. and Nick A. Velasquez were all promoted.
East Orange Mayor Ted Green, who participated in the event, told the Record-Transcript after the ceremony, “We promoted nine sergeants and we promoted three lieutenants in our Police Department. We had two women that were promoted today, so we continue to have promotions here in the city of East Orange. We just had a class that came out of the academy. It was about 25 of them, so we promoted people to sergeants and lieutenants here today.”
“I feel good,” continued the mayor. “It just shows that, as a mayor in the city of East Orange, when it comes to progress, we have men and women who work hard each and every day. We have a crime reduction of 80 percent in this city and that really comes from the hard work of our men and women and our public safety.
“It’s just an opportunity to promote them, tell them we thank them for their hard work. Most of them were on a list that was up for promotion, so it was only right to do the right thing in terms of promoting our men and women.”
Councilwoman Amy Lewis, who serves as chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee and as a liaison to the Department of Public Safety, also attended the promotion ceremony.
“Today’s event was absolutely fantastic,” said Lewis to the Record-Transcript after the ceremony. “We had a lot of officers who truly deserved to be promoted and we’re just happy today that we were able to fulfill that.”
The Department of Public Safety was also out in full force to congratulate the 12 officers for their promotions. And when asked after the event how she felt about the ceremony, East Orange police Chief Phyllis Bindi kept it simple.
“Elated,” she said.
The ceremony also honored two city employees for their heroic efforts. According to Public Information Officer Connie Jackson, East Orange Department of Public Works employees Khalil Oliviera and Syid Griggs, who work in the Traffic Division, were at work on North Harrison and Main streets in East Orange when they heard a commotion, and then heard from an elderly woman that someone had grabbed her purse. Without hesitation, both men sprang into action and chased down the assailant, apprehending and holding him until police arrived on the scene.
Oliviera and Griggs were honored with Citizen Awards for their bravery and quick response during the ceremony by the mayor, the council, Bindi and Director of Public Safety Dominick Saldida.
“This is not something new; this is what I do,” Oliviera, who has worked with the DPW since 2015, told the Record-Transcript on Friday, Oct. 18. “I help people. I cook and so I used to make food and give it to people who were hungry. I also used to cut grass for people who could not do it on their own.
Born and raised in an area of East Orange once fondly known as “Lil City,” Griggs said he loves East Orange and it was pure “natural instinct” for him to step in and help.
“I am a part of this community. My family lives in this community,” Griggs, who joined the city’s DPW team last year, said Friday, Oct. 18. “If I see someone, especially a woman or a child that needs help, I’m going to intervene.”
Within several hours, a post about the men East Orange City Hall’s official Facebook page had received almost 8,000 views, nearly 600 likes, 175 comments and 85 shares.
“What these men did was brave and unselfish,” said Green in a quote sent to the Record-Transcript. “It makes us all proud and reinforces the charge that East Orange is ‘One city, one community, with one goal that equals progress.’ ”
A group photo of the 12 promoted police officers was taken outdoors after the ceremony.
“Today was a glorious event for the city of East Orange and for all of the personnel that were promoted to the ranks of sergeant and lieutenant,” Saldida to the Record-Transcript after the event.
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman