Jersey City Police Director Tawana Moody named first civilian to lead department

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Jersey City Police Director Tawana Moody will see her job responsibilities expand to become the first civilian to the lead the department following the retirement of Chief Michael Kelly last week.

Jersey City Police Director Tawana Moody. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We’ve been working on major structural changes over the years, and establishing civilian oversight creates more lines of accountability and solvency, which will ultimately lead to better results for residents and officers with decreased crime, better accountability, and more transparency,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.

“When a civilian files a complaint to Internal Affairs, no one is aware of the results or if disciplinary actions are warranted. Public perspective is just as valuable as police perspective, and I believe this latest step we’re taking will strengthen police/community relations.”

Under state law, only sworn officers currently have access to Internal Affairs (IA) investigations unless obtained through litigation.

By appointing a civilian to oversee the police department, the Fulop administration’s primary goal is to allow for more civilian access into investigations involving residents’ complaints of wrongdoing, with more visibility and integrity, the mayor’s office said today.

“Three years ago, we made her Police Director with the idea of putting her on the path to becoming the head of the entire police. Since then, it has become very clear that we have a unique person who has rightfully earned the trust of both the residents and the police officers,” added Public Safety Director James Shea.

“The system in New Jersey is built to protect officers from the public, but it should be the opposite where they’re held accountable to the people entrusting them. I know Director Moody will bring us to that point, where trust is universally shared by all involved.”

Born and raised in Jersey City, Moody, a Lincoln High School graduate, started as a clerk with the police department in 2005 and quickly worked her way up to hold various management positions.

As an ordained minister, she dedicates her personal time to serve in several ministries throughout the city’s Greenville section, including Seeds of Greatness Fellowship Church and the ministry she founded: Behold Women of Faith.

“I’m incredibly honored to be given this opportunity to expand the scope of my responsibilities, which will continue to focus around improving community relations,” Moody began.

“I’ve worked with these officers for a long time; they are hardworking men and women. I know our residents, and I understand what they’re looking for from us. And so, I’m excited at the opportunity to further the administration’s efforts of creating greater transparency, strengthening our relationships, and working to open up the lines of communication that have been closed for far too long.”

Since being appointed police director in 2018, Moody has supervised the nearly 700 civilian employees in multiple divisions throughout the Public Safety Department while simultaneously overseeing all the administrative needs for the 950 sworn officers within the JCPD.

Moody’s job requirements have previously ranged from contract negotiations to emergency crisis response, to diversity recruitment, to budgets, to facilitating community meetings and public outreach.

Most recently, she rebuilt the off-duty jobs program now includes more accountability and oversight after a dozen officers were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for getting paid for work they did not perform.

Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro offered Moody his congratulations, but also noted that he was hesitant to take the mayor’s word at face value.

“If the position description and responsibilities of the Police Director are meaningful and consistent with the goals purported by Mayor Fulop, then I will support such changes. If such amendments turn out to be just lip service, then I will call it as I see it.”

 

Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro. 

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