BLOOMFIELD, NJ — George Ricci, commander of the Bloomfield Police Department Detective Bureau, was elevated to police chief at a ceremony held in the Oak View Elementary School gymnasium, on Thursday, April 6.
The appointment marked a passage for the township: The police department is again commanded by a chief. Seven years ago, amid legal duress, its leadership was assumed by Samuel DeMaio, a former city of Newark police chief. He was given the title of Bloomfield public safety director. But now, with the reins in Ricci’s hands, DeMaio departed from his position March 31. He told this newspaper he is retiring.
The master of ceremonies at the promotion was Lt. Naomi Zepeda, the National Anthem was sung by Skylar Canabal and Deacon Jerry Rossi, of Sacred Heart Church, provided a simple invocation asking God to be with the community as they “installed George as our next chief.”
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontura spoke. Recognizing Ricci’s 24-year rise through Bloomfield ranks, from patrol officer to detective, then sergeant, lieutenant and captain, before detective bureau commander, plus his popularity, Fontura good humoredly expressed a little concern by Ricci’s advancement and that maybe he, himself, should be looking out for his own sheriff’s job.
“I’ve watched George grow and prosper in this business of ours,” Fontura said. “Without public safety, nothing works. We are part of the community.”
Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia added ceremonial remarks and expressed a “heartfelt thanks” to DeMaio for reorganizing the police department. At the time of DeMaio’s hiring, the BPD was struggling with lawsuits against police leadership.
“When I asked him here, it was for three years,” Venezia said. “He gave us seven.”
The mayor expressed thanks to Ricci’s family for their sacrifices over the years and noted Ricci’s participation in many Bloomfield youth programs. Ricci, the mayor said, was starting the next chapter of his life on good footing because his police experience was multifaceted.
“I know he will make us proud,” Venezia concluded.
DeMaio spoke and admitted that it took more time to put everything in place to transfer police command back to a chief.
“Over the past eight years, I’ve witnessed the growth of many people,” he said. “I thought it was going to be more difficult than it was, but I enjoyed the eight years I spent in Bloomfield more than the 28 I spent in Newark.”
He said Venezia had initially asked him for three years of service to put the BPD in order.
“It took a little longer to transfer back to a chief,” DeMaio said, “but everything had to be in place.”
Venezia administered the Oath of Office to Ricci who then spoke.
He thanked the mayor and council for their faith, DeMaio for his mentoring and his own command staff.
“From a very young age, all I ever wanted to be was a police officer,” he said. “When, as a kid, we played cops and robbers. If it was my turn to be a robber, I’d play stickball instead.”
He recalled the time when he and Sgt. Joe Corio, young civilians at the time, had a heartfelt discussion about what they wanted from life.
“We spoke about wanting to be Bloomfield police officers,” he said. “Here we are today.”
Ricci said he will challenge his officers to do better work and anticipated they would challenge him the same way. But, he told everyone, he promised to do all in his power to return every officer safely home to their families.
He noted a recent emergency response by two BPD officers who raced a two-year-old boy to a hospital. The child had stopped breathing and survived.
“I bring this up because each officer can make a difference,” he said. “I ask all of you to have compassion.”
Ricci thanked his family for his success and BPD officers, long-retired, for sharing their experience. He choked up expressing his father’s commitment to him.
“I know he’s looking over me with a glass of his homemade wine and saying, ‘That’s my boy.’ He made me the man I am today,” Ricci concluded
Rossi returned for his benediction.
“We pray for George,” he said, “and with your guidance, Lord, may the police discharge their duties, and God bless their chief.”