MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood Police Chief Jimmy DeVaul, 53, died Oct. 21 at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa. DeVaul will be remembered in Maplewood as a stabilizing force who became chief of the police department following an upheaval, a man who worked to improve the department’s culture and relationship with the community.
DeVaul, a graduate of Columbia High School, joined the Maplewood Police Department in 1993; he had a degree from Union County College. After rising through the ranks, he was named police chief in 2018 after the departure of former Chief Robert J. Cimino, following the controversial arrests of four black youths following the township’s fireworks show in July 2016.
DeVaul rose through the ranks and led the police department in making procedural and culture changes to help reduce the arrests of minors and reduce uses of force, especially after the “Force Report,” released by NJ Advance Media in 2019, revealed that Maplewood police used force at a higher rate than any other department in the state.
During his service as chief, DeVaul worked to address the use of force and racial bias among officers, create a youth restorative justice program and increase community engagement to help fix the department’s relationship with the public.
Throughout his career, DeVaul was recognized with multiple unit and command citations. He received a distinguished citation in 2012, recognizing the “critical services provided to the public at great personal risk.” He was also a member of many law enforcement organizations and a trusted presenter at multiple forums.
“We are heartbroken and in disbelief,” Mayor Dean Dafis said. “Supporting his family and Maplewood’s finest are our primary concerns at the moment. We shall gather together as a community in his honor in a forthcoming ceremony, when we will celebrate his life and nearly 30 years of service to Maplewood. This is a very big loss for us. Jimmy led with deep conviction, challenging the old guard, transforming the department and bringing us closer together — truly Maplewood’s finest!”
Back on Oct. 17, the township had released a statement that DeVaul was in the hospital, after having suffered a medical incident on Oct. 14. Deputy Police Chief Albert Sally was named acting police chief of the Maplewood Police Department effective immediately; he remains in that role now. Sally joined the department in 2001 and was named deputy chief in 2018.
“South Orange extends its deepest sympathies to the Maplewood community and the DeVaul family,” South Orange President Sheena Collum said. “Jimmy was a true leader, a deeply dedicated public servant, and a colleague and friend to so many. Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him knew how fiercely he loved Maplewood and how proud he was of his department. May the many memories and good times bring comfort.”
Former public safety committee Chairperson Greg Lembrich praised DeVaul’s work to reshape the police department when he became chief.
“Maplewood mourns the loss of our terrific police chief and proud native son, Jimmy DeVaul,” Lembrich said. “Jimmy was the leader our police department and community needed during difficult periods over the past several years, and could always be trusted to keep our town and residents safe. He was a strong advocate for accountability and transparency in the department, implementing many changes during his tenure — sometimes over objections from those around him — to make our police more representative of and more responsive to the people they serve. It was a pleasure to work with him during my five years as chair of the public safety committee, where I could not have asked for a better partner. I admired his integrity, honesty, humor, loyalty and commitment. Maplewood owes him and his family a great debt, and I will miss him very much.”
DeVaul, who lived in Bath, Pa., was born in 1968 on Long Island, N.Y., and grew up in Maplewood.
He is survived by his wife, Krista Vogrin DeVaul; children, Jeramy DeVaul, Alexandria McGowan, Nicholas DeLucy, Thomas DeLucy and Kevin McGowan; father, Robert DeVaul Sr.; and brother Steven DeVaul. He was predeceased by his mother, Alice Gordohn, and brother Robert DeVaul Jr.
Memorial visitation will be held at the Jacob A. Holle Funeral Home, 2122 Millburn Ave. in Maplewood, on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 4 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Friday, Oct. 28, at Maplewood Town Hall, 574 Valley St. in Maplewood, beginning at 11:30 a.m., following a departmental procession departing from Holle Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at tinyurl.com/mr3s48vx would be appreciated. For more information or to send condolences, visit jacobhollefuneralhome.com.
File photos, as well as photos courtesy of Dean Dafis and Greg Lembrich