By Community Police Collaborative
On Monday, March 14th, the South Orange Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint 17-year SOPD veteran Lt. Ernesto Morillo as its next Chief of Police. The search to find a new Chief took over a year and according to Village President Sheena Collum included a Civil Service test for Police Chiefs, as well as interviews with the South Orange Board of Trustees, the Community Police Collaborative and Village Administrator Adam Loehner.
Married with three children, Morillo is a long-time Essex County resident. He is the son of Elena and Ernesto Morillo who immigrated here from the Dominican Republic and is the youngest of five children. Morillo is a member of Samson #66 Masonic Lodge PHA and is a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He will serve as the first minority Chief of Police in the history of the South Orange Police Department. Morillo notes that “I believe that as police officers, we are more guardians than warriors. We need to be able to listen and learn from our community, align our common goals, and have the flexibility to adapt to changing needs. Integrity, professionalism and compassion should be easily identifiable in every officer privileged enough to wear a badge.”
Acting Police Chief, Capt. Stephen Dolinac, who took over following the retirement of former Chief Kyle Kroll, gave his strong support, “Ernesto’s continuous, unrelenting positive attitude has been a benchmark for high performance and delivering value to the community, the department, and the individuals under his command. His knowledge and skills as an educator, a mentor, and an officer have developed police personnel both on a professional and personal level. Our department is at its best when we have the right people in the right places, and I extend my congratulations to Chief Morillo.”
Morillo joined the SOPD in 2005 as a patrol officer, becoming a detective in 2013 in the Criminal Investigations Unit. He subsequently rose to the position of Lieutenant and Shift Commander in 2019, where he has successfully mentored, and developed a comprehensive training program for, newly graduated officers. He is now also in the process of receiving his Ph.D. at Seton Hall University in Higher Education, Leadership, Management, and Policy. Morillo is also well known to many in the community through his work with youth and families. He is an instructor at the Junior Police Academy, participates in the Community Police Collaborative, and has championed the Village’s Community Care and Justice initiative led by Trustee Donna Coallier. Currently he is supporting an Autism Awareness Month fundraising campaign, designed by SOPD officer Nick Lonero, set to launch in April.
Village President Collum gave her unequivocal support: “I cannot adequately put into words how wildly excited I am to welcome Ernesto into this new role,” said Collum. “He embodies a strong and empathetic duty to care, understands the importance of community collaboration and relationship building, is a strong advocate for transparency and data, and most importantly, he knows that fostering public trust builds legitimacy.”
Morillo’s appointment is effective March 15, 2022. However, a formal swearing-in ceremony will take place on Thursday, March 31 at 7:00 p.m. at Orange Lawn Tennis Club. The public is invited to join.
Regarding his appointment, Morillo stated: “South Orange Police stands on a strong foundation of young, dedicated individuals, and I intend to create an environment where they can be successful by providing opportunities where they can excel and be their most authentic selves. I thank Village President Collum, the Board of Trustees, Administration, Community Police Collaborative, and my law enforcement colleagues for putting their faith in me. Every day I will work to not let you down.”