Newark's police chief says she'll be out and about

Sheilah Coley smiles as she is officially presented as the first female police chief in the history of the Newark Police Department, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

August 9, 2011 3:17:00 PM PDT
Newark's first female police chief says she plans to be very visible in the community.

"I'm very excited to introduce to the public at large the chief of police of the City of Newark, Sheila Coley," Newark Mayor Corey Booker said.

Mayor Corey Booker did the honors, but the applause was definitely for the new Chief Coley.

She joined the department back in 1989, never expecting that one day she'd be the first woman to lead it.

"For me to stand her 22 years later and be the chief of police of an agency that I love so much, it's just like an unbelievable honor," Coley said.

In what the mayor calls a "general manager-coach relationship", Coley will be in charge of day-to-day operations, while Police Director Samuel DeMaio will oversee policy and budget decisions.

"Having a chief of police is a very important thing for me. I think it's some, an agency this size; it's something that we need. It's certainly something that I wanted right from the beginning," DeMaio said.

Coley assumes command at a difficult time for the Newark Police Department: Layoff's last year undermined morale, a U.S. Justice Department probe, and rising crime this summer has added additional pressure.

But Coley seems unfazed by the challenge, insisting good old-fashioned police work and listening to the community are the keys to making Newark a safer city.

"If the average resident can walk out of their door and feel safe, feel confident walking to the local store, that's going to be a major accomplishment. That's my goal," Coley said.