Promotion makes Richardson first African American police chief in Morristown

Morristown Acting Police Chief Darnell Richardson. Photo: Morristown Department of Public Safety
Morristown Acting Police Chief Darnell Richardson. Photo: Morristown Department of Public Safety
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Darnell Richardson has been promoted as Morristown’s first African American police chief.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office addressed Richardson as chief in a news release on Thursday afternoon.

Richardson, 54, has served as acting chief since 2018. During his 32 years as a cop, he has served in virtually every role in the bureau– from foot patrols and bike patrols to the detective and services divisions.

The 1986 Morristown High School graduate was promoted to captain in 2015, and was among four captains eligible to take a state Civil Service test for chief scheduled for this fall. Any of the top three finishers could be promoted to the position.

An announcement from the town is imminent, town Administrator Jillian Barrick said Thursday.

Richardson and Mayor Tim Dougherty did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Calls to the state Civil Service Commission and Department of Labor also were not returned. Talk of the promotion began circulating online this week.

Dougherty’s administration named Richardson as acting chief in December 2018, when then-chief Pete Demnitz was placed on leave after an officer successfully sued the town over a demotion.

Acting Police Chief Darnell Richardson runs hose to fire at DeHart Street parking deck, Jan, 21, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Acting Police Chief Darnell Richardson runs hose to fire at DeHart Street parking deck, Jan, 21, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

When Demnitz retired in 2019, Richardson agreed to continue as acting chief.  At the time, Michael Corcoran Jr., hired amidst the tumult as the town’s first public safety director, praised Richardson as a “born leader.”

In 2015, Demnitz noted Richardson’s local roots and knowledge of the community and the police bureau.

As patrol commander, Demnitz said, Richardson was “in charge of every uniformed officer you see on the street. It’s a huge responsibility.”

Richardson, who also has served as volunteer firefighter in Morris Township, said he never aspired to be a commander.  “My ambition in life was to be a police officer,” he said when promoted to police captain.

On Richardson’s watch as acting chief, the bureau earned accreditation for the first time by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.

Mayor Tim Dougherty with new Captain Darnell Richardson, June 12, 2015. Photo by Berit Ollestad for MorristownGreen.com
Mayor Tim Dougherty with Darnell Richardson, when he was promoted to captain, June 12, 2015. Photo by Berit Ollestad for MorristownGreen.com

He also found himself caught in the crossfire between the mayor and the PBA, which unsuccessfully opposed Dougherty’s election this year to a fourth term.

Union leadership accused the administration of pushing ticket quotas to shore up municipal coffers during the pandemic, and of pressuring Richardson to punish officers who balked by assigning them to late-night foot patrols.

The union also filed a grievance claiming town officials were dragging their feet appointing a permanent chief.

Richardson described quotas as illegal and denied any political pressure, saying he assigned foot patrols to address public safety concerns.

As of December 2020, the acting chief job paid $174,500, according to a statewide database of public employees.

In a 2019 lawsuit, Police Capt. Michael Buckley accused the town of humiliating him by passing him over for acting chief, a role he filled in the past. The Marine Corps veteran had testified the year before for the officer who won his demotion case.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations, Chief Richardson. Thank you for your 30 years of service to Morristown so far and best wishes to you in your new role.

  2. Racism is alive and well. One’s ethnicity should have nothing to do with their qualifications, but it keeps getting promoted in stories like these.
    Also, only ignorant people use the silly term “African American.” They are desperate to sound politically-correct, and didn’t think it through. Africa is a continent – not a country. It has over 60 countries. They don’t know this. Charleze Theron and Dave Matthews are from South Africa! So is Elon Musk. I guess that makes them African Americans. What do you call a black person in Canada? An African Canadian? How about a black person who moves from Canada to Mexico? An African Canadian Mexican?
    So absurd…

  3. Thanks for your question, Shannon. As Civil Service rules have been explained to me, a town may promote any of the top three finishers on an exam.

  4. I’m hoping someone can enlighten me. What is the purpose of having qualified applicants sit for the civil service test, if the highest scoring individual is passed over for the Chief position. Sounds like business as usual in Morristown. Maybe Mr Kevin, you can get us an answer.

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