EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor announced Dec. 11 that former Newark Police Department Director Sheila Coley has been hired as the city’s first public safety director.
“I am excited for the insight and experience that Director Coley will bring to our already dynamic team of leaders,” said Taylor on Friday, Dec. 11. “East Orange is safer than it has been in over 50 years. And I have no doubt that Director Coley will continue to make our city an even greater place to live, work and play.”
On Monday, Dec. 14, Coley attended the East Orange City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall, where council members had the opportunity to say they were glad to have her on the job.
“Kudos to her; I congratulate Sheila Coley,” said council President and 5th Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman on Monday, Dec. 14. “She is actually the first black female public safety director that the city has had; the first public safety director, period, that we have had. I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Prior to being chosen by her council peers to serve as their president, Holman served as the chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety Committee for years. In that capacity, she was the legislative body’s official liaison to the Police Department and Fire Department, as well as the other first responders and emergency service providers in East Orange.
“I hope she has some new innovative things to work with the police chief and fire chief on,” said Holman. “I know a few things that she hit the ground running with was our firehouses and things they need over at the Fire Department and some equipment and things of that nature, as well as the Police Department. I’m just looking for her to improve the Police Department cohesively with the chief and for better enhancement to enhance what’s already being done.”
Third Ward Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge previously served as the East Orange City Council president for eight consecutive years and currently serves as chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety Committee. Talmadge said she is just as excited as her council colleague about Coley becoming the city’s first public safety director.
Talmadge also said she is proud the city’s first public safety director happens to be a decorated former police officer and accomplished black woman.
“She’s a black female. Black power; it’s great,” said Talmadge on Monday, Dec. 14. “She’s a black female from the city of East Orange and the 3rd Ward. And I love it — 3rd Ward on the move.”
Talmadge said she is glad Coley has come to East Orange “because she’s going to create that balance between the police and fire department. As the public safety director, she will pull it all under one umbrella when it comes to getting grants and getting stuff that the department needs to operate. She’ll be able to do that.”
Talmadge said Coley’s law enforcement track record as a former police director at the Newark Police Department will help her do a great job in East Orange. She said Coley also served as Newark Police Department chief during her time in Newark, also a benefit.
“If she can handle Newark, I’m absolutely certain she can handle East Orange; we don’t have the problems that they have,” said Talmadge. “I’m confident that she can keep the city on track, when it comes to maintaining the historic reductions in crime and violence and the public safety gains that were made under previous police directors and administrations. Coming out of Newark, handling that department as the police chief and the police director at some point, I’m confident she’ll be able to handle it.”
Talmadge also said the fact “she’s an East Orange person” is a plus for the city.
“She’s been here over 30 years, so she’s familiar with the makeup of the city and all that, and that helps a lot,” said Talmadge.
Firefighter Garrett Winn, president of the Orange Fire Department’s FMBA Local 23, said he is glad to have Coley running the Public Safety Committee.
“I just met her this evening; we spoke briefly before the City Council meeting,” Winn said Monday, Dec. 14. “If she’s here to help the firefighters and the city grow and improve and make sure that we get everything that we need and everything that we deserve, then I’m all for her. Each group would like to see somebody from their background in a position where it’s going to affect them. If she’s learning the fire side of the public safety director’s job, then cool. If she’s not learning the fire side of it, I don’t know how that’s going to go. Hopefully, she’s learning the fire side of it and she can help us get things that we need to get done.”
Coley said she’s looking forward to working with Taylor and all the other public safety personnel to “set the standard for urban excellence in law enforcement.”
“The public safety personnel have done a phenomenal job of transforming East Orange from a city that was once one of the most crime-ridden communities in the state to a national model of good law enforcement,” said Coley. “The challenge to build upon the excellent work that is being done here is one that I am wholeheartedly committed to achieving.”