MAPLEWOOD,NJ - Maplewood will not conduct a nationwide search for a new police chief despite promising such a move last year after complaints led to the ouster of veteran chief Robert Cimino, instead planning now to promote someone from within.

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca announced the change in plans during Thursday night’s Hilton Neighborhood Association meeting where acting chief Jimmy DeVaul spoke and answered questions from residents.

DeLuca said state law requires that the Township appoint the next chief from among current personnel.

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“We had initially wanted to do a national search,” Deluca told the meeting. “There’s a state law, the legal advice that we got is that we’re covered by this law and that requires a promotion from within the police department.”

That law is New Jersey Code 40A:14-139, which states, in part:

...except in cities of the first and second class, a promotion of any member or officer of the police department or force to a superior position shall be made from the membership of such department or force. Due consideration shall be given to the member or officer so proposed  for the promotion, to the length and merit of his service and preference shall  be given according to seniority in service.
No person shall be eligible for promotion to be a superior officer unless he  shall have previously served as a patrolman in such department or force.

DeLuca added that the deadline for those interested in the chief’s position to apply is Jan. 31, 2018. He said interviews would be done following that date but did not give a deadline for choosing a permanent chief.

“We’ve said anyone who is in the police department who’s lieutenant and above can apply for the position of chief,” DeLuca said when asked about the plans for a permanent chief search. 

The search for a new police chief follows the recent departure of former Police Chief Robert Cimino, who was placed on leave in August and later resigned in the wake of revelations of improper police abuse on July 5, 2016.

Those claims included officers kicking at least one teen in the head and punching others as they sought to handle post-Fireworks crowds and some that led to physical altercations between teens and police. Claims that police mistreated some residents of color were also raised. 

Some of the strongest objections involved the police “herding” many youngsters toward the Irvington city line, including many who live in Maplewood.

Video and audio of those incidents, which followed that night’s fireworks display, were made public in late July 2017 after months of demands for them to be released. The same week, the police also revealed that six officers had been disciplined for their actions that night, including one who was suspended for 20 days.

Just days later, on Aug. 1, the Township Committee called for Cimino to resign, held a unanimous vote of no confidence in him, and placed him and former police captain Joshua Cummis on paid leave. The same night the TC appointed DeVaul as the new acting police chief, along with Lieutenant Albert Sally as a new acting captain.

Cummis has since retired and the Township reached a settlement with Cimino in which he will be paid nearly $280,000 during 2018 in exchange for resigning.

Township officials had promised a national search last fall after some residents said promotion from within would not do enough to change the culture of the department.

Asked later if he believes the state promotional limitation will impact the ability to get a good candidate, Deluca said, “I don’t think so.”

DeVaul, a Columbia High School graduate who has been in the department for 29 years, said he plans to be among those vying for the permanent chief’s position. He said his goal since being appointed was to do the best job possible and convince the Township that he is the best person to hold it permanently: “When I was given the ball and the opportunity to run with it, I was not going to give the Township Committee the opportunity to give it to someone else.”

Photos courtesy of Carl Patterson of CP Photo Op Photography.

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