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The Star-Ledger

Newark Swears In Latino Deputy Police Director - Padilla Had Retired As Captain In '02


July 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

Growing up as the son of a Newark police officer, Ivan Padilla said his father, Frank Padilla Sr., had one rule among many that he enforced vigorously: No standing on street corners.

But being an 18-year-old, Ivan Padilla did it anyway, stopping on his way home from school to joke with two friends one day. His father rolled up in an unmarked car and angrily ordered his son home.

A few minutes later, the young Padilla was ordered back into the car by his father to return to the corner where he had just been standing.

"The guy I was shaking hands with was shot," said Ivan Padilla. He remembered his father turned to him and asked, "Now do you understand why we don't stand on the corners?"

The same blunt, no-nonsense attitude his father used to raise three boys in Newark is the same attitude Ivan Padilla said he would bring to his new job as the city's first Latino deputy police director.

"I'm very excited about being back, although I know some people are not," the 56-year-old Padilla said minutes after being sworn in at a City Hall ceremony.

"I have ideas about what the community needs. I never left the community. I am the community."

A 32-year veteran of the Newark Police Department who retired with the rank of captain in 2002, Padilla will oversee the merger of the office of records and communications, said acting Police Director Anthony Ambrose.

The civilian position has a salary range of $83,000 to $111,000, but Pamela Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Newark Mayor Sharpe James, said negotiations for Padilla's salary are not complete. Padilla also serves at the discretion of the mayor.

James said that he received a lot of grief about bringing Padilla back but that he did not care.

"This administration has empowered the Hispanic community and continues to do so," said James.

Latino council members Hector Corchado and Luis Quintana said the appointment of a Latino in the position was overdue. They, along with Councilman Augusto Amador, criticized James two years ago for a lack of Portuguese and Latino appointments.

"It's not about race all the time, but sometimes it has to be about race. It has to be about making sure the proper representation is there," said Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins.

Padilla said that because he has helped other Latinos during his career, he has a reputation for being biased toward Latinos. He said he believes in helping other Latinos but that he raised his three sons to not use their ethnicity as a crutch.

In his discussions about the job, Padilla said: "Mayor, if you hired me because I'm qualified and can do the job, I'll take it. If you hired me just because I'm Puerto Rican, give the job to the naysayers. I happen to be Puerto Rican and qualified to do the job."

During his 32 years as a Newark police officer, Padilla worked undercover with the FBI and Waterfront Commission and was commander of the Newark Police Academy. He was also the first bilingual hostage negotiator and talked a distraught man from jumping off the Bridge Street Bridge in 1995.

Acting Police Chief Irving Bradley said he recalls how Padilla diligently gathered supplies to ship to his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Georges in 1998.

Born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Padilla moved with his family to Newark when he was 6 years old. He graduated from South Side High School, now Malcolm X Shabazz, and played football and competed in track and field.

A widower, Padilla's son Frank Jr. is a certified public accountant, Wes is a graduate of West Point and a major in the Army who is assigned to the Pentagon, and Ivan is a business manager.

Ambrose said that Padilla's experience will be a welcome part of the police management team. In his new position, he will work with the city's new homeland security department in the important task of updating communications systems to allow better communication between agencies.

Padilla said he's ready for the challenge.

"I was gone for a couple of years, but I never once stopped being a cop," he said.

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