South Orange Village appoints Ernesto Morillo as chief of police

Chief Ernesto Morillo

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — South Orange Village President Sheena Collum announced on March 14 the appointment of Lt. Ernesto Morillo as the new chief of police of the South Orange Police Department, effective March 15.

“I cannot adequately put into words how wildly excited I am to welcome Ernesto into this new role,” Collum said. “He embodies a strong and empathetic duty to care, understands the importance of community collaboration and relationship building, is a strong advocate for transparency and data, and, most importantly, he knows that fostering public trust builds legitimacy.”

Morillo joined the SOPD in 2005 as a patrol officer and, in 2013, became a detective in the Criminal Investigations Unit. He rose through the ranks to the position of lieutenant and shift commander in 2019, where he successfully developed a standardized comprehensive training program for all newly graduated officers.

He is currently in the process of receiving his Ph.D. in higher education, leadership, management and policy at Seton Hall University, and prides himself on mentorship and creating professional development opportunities.

Capt. Stephen Dolinac, who has been serving as acting chief following the retirement of former Chief Kyle Kroll, said, “Ernesto’s continuous, unrelenting positive attitude has been a benchmark for high performance and delivering value to the community, the department and the individuals under his command. His knowledge and skills as an educator, a mentor and an officer have developed police personnel both on a professional and personal level. Our department is at its best when we have the right people in the right places, and I extend my congratulations to Chief Morillo.”

Morillo is also well known to many in the community through his work with youth and families. He is an instructor at the Junior Police Academy, participates in the Community Police Collaborative, and has championed the village’s Community Care & Justice initiative led by Trustee Donna Coallier. Currently he is supporting an Autism Awareness Month fundraising campaign, designed by SOPD officer Nick Lonero, set to launch in April.

“I believe that, as police officers, we are more guardians than warriors,” Morillo said. “We need to be able to listen and learn from our community, align our common goals and have the flexibility to adapt to changing needs. Integrity, professionalism and compassion should be easily identifiable in every officer privileged enough to wear a badge. South Orange Police (Department) stands on a strong foundation of young, dedicated individuals, and I intend to create an environment where they can be successful by providing opportunities where they can excel and be their most authentic selves. I thank Village President Collum, the Board of Trustees, administration, Community Police Collaborative and my law enforcement colleagues for putting their faith in me. Every day I will work to not let you down.”

Morillo is married with three children and is a long time Essex County resident. He is the son of Elena and Ernesto Morillo, who immigrated here from the Dominican Republic, and is the youngest of five children. Morillo is a member of Samson No. 66 Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He will serve as the first minority chief of police in the history of the South Orange Police Department.

A formal swearing-in ceremony will occur on Thursday, March 31, at 7 p.m. at Orange Lawn Tennis Club at 305 N. Ridgewood Road, South Orange. The public is invited to join.

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