NEWARK (WABC) --History was made Wednesday at the largest prosecutor's office in New Jersey, as the first woman and first African-American to become Essex County Chief of Detectives was sworn in.
"It so happens that she is the first woman, the first black, that's great. But the thing is that she's the most qualified for the job," said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
She started from the bottom. Now Quovella Spruill is there, sworn in Wednesday as the new chief of detectives.
"Prosecutor Murray and I are the first female duo to serve as prosecutor and chief," said Spruill.
Spruill enters into her new role well-respected by her colleagues, and has the street cred to match.
Growing up in Newark, she says "Sometimes I know what's happening before we get it on our alerts because I have family and friends here to tell me what's happening," she said. "It is very personal because I want to see our city better."
Even though Spruill has worked in law enforcement for the last 18 years she didn't start off there. She has an engineering degree from NJIT.
Asked whether she always wanted to be in law enforcement, she said "I did, I did. While I worked in the law department for the city of Newark, I used to work in the municipal court. Working there, I said this is kind of cool. Cops come by, they give subpoenas, they have to go to court and testify."
But Spruill says she used a scientific approach as she moved her way up through the ranks, in SVU and Homicide. Now she's in charge of all that, the first woman to hold that position in the county, and the first black female to hold that position in the state.
"I think the most important part of all this is where I began and it's what I want to come back to every day. My heart is here," said Spruill.
Chief Spruill is replacing former Chief Anthony F. Ambrose.
"We expect a smooth and seamless transition as Chief Spruill takes over,'' said Acting Prosecutor Carolyn Murray. "Most recently Chief Spruill served as deputy chief under Chief Ambrose. She has worked closely with him throughout his tenure and has played a critical role in running several key units in the office. Consequently, she has been able to hit the ground running as she leads the policing side of the office.''
"Her appointment is historic on many levels,'' said Acting Prosecutor Murray, noting she is the first African American female to hold the title of Chief of Detectives. She is also one of the few in recent memory to come to the position through the ranks.
Acting Chief Spruill joined the Prosecutor's Office in 1998 and has held the positions of County Investigator, Lieutenant, Captain, and Deputy Chief. She has been assigned to various units including Child Abuse/Sex Crimes, Homicide and Internal Affairs.
She has supervised many other investigatory units within the office, on many occasions serving as Acting Chief during Chief Ambrose's short term absences. Acting Chief Spruill will now manage more than 130 sworn officers and investigatory personnel. She looks forward to the challenge of continuing the progress and improvements made by her predecessor.
"I would like to thank Prosecutor Murray for this opportunity to continue to serve the people of Essex County. It is an honor and privilege to work in the community where I grew up and learned the life lessons that have guided my career in law enforcement, '' Chief Spruill said.
Chief Spruill began her public service with the City of Newark as a student assistant and rose to become a manager in the City's Neighborhood Services before going to the Prosecutor's Office. As a manager, she managed millions of dollars in City and grant funds, as well as a staff of 40 city employees.