Trenton’s police director has been fired

Sheilah Coley was praised for diversifying and modernizing the department, but was criticized for the city’s violence and telling officers to stand down during unrest.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora and Police Director Sheilah Coley speak to reporters in the wake of Tuesday's double homicide

Trenton Police Director Sheilah Coley (right) with Mayor Reed Gusciora speaking to reporters after a double homicide last October. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

Sheilah Coley is no longer the police director of New Jersey’s capital city.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora announced her termination Wednesday, effective immediately, after two years on the job.

Gusciora praised Coley’s efforts to diversify the command staff, increase accountability within the department as well as modernize it.

“However, my administration has decided to move in a different direction,” he said. That direction is different from last October, when Gusciora stood by Coley among calls for her (and Gusciora) to step down over violent crime that spiked last year.

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Police Capt. James Slack, a three-decade veteran of the department, will oversee the department as the search for Coley’s replacement gets underway.

Coley’s tenure was a rocky one. Under her watch, Trenton broke its homicide record in 2020 with 40 murders. So far in 2021, the homicide count is at eight; on pace with last year.

She was also criticized for decisions made during unrest in Trenton last May that followed peaceful protests against George Floyd’s murder. She ordered officers to stand down as rioters caused hundreds of thousands of dollars to downtown businesses. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation after the Latino Merchant Association and a downtown property owner filed a complaint. She was cleared of any wrongdoing earlier this year.

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