The town of Secaucus reached a local milestone on Feb. 11 with the promotion of Police Officer Kimberly Elphick to the position of sergeant – the first woman to serve in a ranking position on the police force in its history. Elphick is among seven officers who were promoted to higher rank that day. She joined police officers Austin Hawxhurst, Martin Moreda, and Michael Simone in being promoted to the rank of sergeant. Sergeants Joseph Baccola, Carlos Goyenechea, and Dennis Miller were promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Support of family, friends, fellow officers
Police officers, family, friends, and local officials packed the Secaucus council chambers for the swearing in ceremony.
“I will faithfully, impartially and justly perform all the duties of the office of sergeant in the Secaucus Police Department, according to the best of my ability, so help me God,” said the officers at the end of their swearing in.
After Elphick’s turn, there was much fanfare as the crowd broke out into resounding applause, cheers, and shouts. Another round of applause followed when Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli pointed that Elphick is the first female superior in the history of the Secaucus Police Department.
“She has always been a great police officer. She doesn’t back down from anything.” – Michael Gonnelli
“It is a great accomplishment for the officers that are being promoted,” said Police Chief Dennis Corcoran after the ceremony. “This will strengthen our ranks of the supervisor position, which had been greatly reduced with retirements over the last several years.”
Promotions, hires, policy changes
“It is a great thing for the department and the town,” said Lt. Carlos Goyenechea, who has been on the force for 15 years.
The promotions follow a series of new hires and the recent promotion of Lt. John J. Cerny, who became deputy chief last October, making him second-in-command in the Police Department.
“I would like to congratulate everyone as they start a new chapter in their career tonight,” said Cerny after the ceremony. “I look forward to working with them all as we strive to provide the best service to the town of Secaucus.”
By the numbers
Out of 58 police officers, Secaucus has three women on the police force. There were recently four, but one was in a serious car accident and is no longer on the force.
The mayor and council have hired a number of new probationary officers in the past year as part of an effort to bring the number up from 53 to 62 after multiple retirements in previous years.
They also updated the promotional policy, which hadn’t changed in more than four years, to eliminate some of the more subjective criteria in the performance evaluation component.
All applicants for promotion, up to and including the rank of captain, are required to submit an application in writing. The applicants are evaluated upon a written exam that counts for 60 percent, an oral exam that counts for 35 percent, length of service that counts for 5 percent, and veterans get preferential treatment.
The officers were promoted based on the results of their exams. Based on her scores, Elphick came out in the number two spot out of the officers in consideration for the rank of sergeant.
“I think it is well deserved,” said Cerny regarding Elphick’s promotion.
“It is a nice day,” said Corcoran. “I am very happy for her.”
“She earned it,” said Gonnelli. “Everything was done by testing. Quite frankly, she finished very high.”
Gonnelli said he has seen Elphick in action several times. He noted, “She has always been a great police officer. She doesn’t back down from anything. She is tough.”
Elphick was not available for comment.
Encouraging women to apply
The town plans to seek new recruits for the Police Department.
“We are opening the list back up. Having new tests. We encourage women to apply,” said Town Administrator David Drumeler.
Applicants under the age of 35 must pay a $120 processing fee, and take a written exam. If an applicant gets a high score they proceed onto a physical fitness test followed by a psychological exam.
He said that the municipality doesn’t get many female applicants for the department. He believes this could be cultural because serving as a police officer “typically wasn’t a female profession…but it is turning more into that.”
Both Drumeler and Gonnelli gave the example of the recent lifting of the military ban of women on the front lines as signs of changing times.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.