NEWARK, NJ —Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose will retire as of March 31, 2021, after serving the city for 34 years, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced today.

Tapped by Baraka in 2016 as Newark’s first Public Safety Director, Ambrose’s exit from the role in March leaves behind a longstanding legacy in the city as well as Essex County. 

As a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Ambrose joined the Newark Police Department in 1986 as a police officer, eventually rising through the ranks to become the Chief of Police in 1999 and the Police Director in 2006. He then served as Essex County Undersheriff from 2006 to 2008, at which point he became Chief of Detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Sign Up for East Orange/Orange Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Earlier this month, Ambrose was recognized by United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito for his contributions to cooperative law enforcement.

Upon the announcement of his retirement from Director, Ambrose reflected on his years of service to the city of Newark and commended the officials he worked with as well. 

“It’s always a pleasure serving the community that I love and was born and raised in,” Ambrose told TAPintoNewark. “I worked with the best and finest police agency and firefighters in the world.” 

Under his tenure, Ambrose led the reforms under the 2014 federal consent decree, which has made the Newark police more accountable and transparent in their engagement with the public.

Officials said that every Newark patrol officer is currently equipped with a body-worn camera and a dashboard camera, and is trained in de-escalation tactics. Every officer also undergoes bias perception training, and civil rights-oriented “stop, search, and arrest” training.

Officials noted that homicides in 2019 also fell to their lowest since 1961, and most violent crimes have dropped by double digits every year, according to officials. Likewise, complaints against officers have dropped by double digits each year. Last year, the Newark police removed 496 guns from the street and did not fire a single shot; and effective today all plainclothes Newark police officers will wear bodycams.

Under Ambrose’s supervision, Newark found a new Chief of Police, Lee Douglas, in December following the September departure of Darnell Henry, who served in the role for four years. Douglas, a 24-year veteran who has commanded the city’s 5th Precinct since July, assumed the title on Jan.1.

Upon the announcement of the Public Safety Director’s retirement, Baraka commended Ambrose for his years of service to the city. 

“When I appointed Director Ambrose as Public Safety Director, I knew that his leadership, work ethic, integrity and love for our city is what we needed to fulfill my vision of combining Police, Fire, and Emergency Management into one department,” Baraka said in a statement. “His service to the City of Newark has been paramount. I appreciate all that he has given, and I hope for nothing but the best in his retirement.” 

Following Ambrose’s retirement in March, Baraka is will appoint a new public safety director subject to approval by the City Council. Ambrose currently oversees more than 1,960 employees, comprising 996 sworn police officers, 611 firefighters, and 346 civilian employees, and manages a budget that exceeds $200 million.

In a city that already has a long-standing history of racial oppression and inequality, it will likely be a pivotal decision as to who will succeed the director role while overseeing a Newark Police Department that is 34% Black and 44% Hispanic.

As for the outgoing Director, he highlighted his commitment to fair treatment and protection of all Newark citizens during his tenure. 

“I was born and raised here, so I don’t look at the color of someone’s skin [based] on the way I treat them,” Ambrose said. “Everybody to me is the same, and that’s what was very instrumental to me in my upbringing and career.”