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South Orange swears in new police chief

Enersto Morillo, a police lieutenant who served on the force for 17 years and a Seton Hall Ph.D. student, was sworn in as South Orange’s new police chief on March 31.

Morillo said he is excited for his promotion, but recognizes that there is plenty to accomplish under his oversight. He said his primary focuses are developing his officers’ skills, improving relations within the South Orange community and working with the Community Care and Justice Program, a local government initiative looking to facilitate community wellness and crisis prevention.

Morillo said he believes that building accreditation, or the external recognition of departmental achievements, will set a precedent for both officers and citizens in the South Orange community.

“The SOPD is in need of modernization. I intend to bring the police department to accreditation and modernize the policy management system,” Morillo said. “Accreditation helps police departments operate more professionally, justify their operations, and promote trust in their community.”

The police chief expressed that “officers’ individual abilities” need constant evaluation. He said he wants to “know the areas where they are well built so that he has a high level of confidence in their work in the region” and improve upon their weaknesses to better the department.

The department will continue working with the Community Care and Justice Program under the new police chief.

Morillo said he supports the Community Care and Justice Program, citing its social work services for both citizens and officers "to help work out personal issues that may be the cause of behavior that is self-destructive.”

The department aims “to become pillars of the community by developing programs that are mutually beneficial,” Morillo said.

Morillo said that his officers patrol South Orange for 12 hours a day and have in-depth knowledge of the community’s needs. He highlighted recent efforts including a coat drive in collaboration with the South Orange Rescue Squad and the Community Care and Justice initiative, as well as a fundraiser selling police patches with funds going toward Nassan's Place, a nonprofit organization that assists people with autism.

Morillo said the efforts made in South Orange will also affect Seton Hall students. As a Ph.D. student studying higher education, leadership, management, and policy, Morillo said he believes in the power of solutions based upon research.

The police chief said he is taking initiative to give his officers more training and educational opportunities to enrich their professional and personal development.

“A well-rounded officer is most likely to perform well with the public and have a rewarding career,” he added, “That officer will be compassionate and understanding of how situations form. That officer will always weigh what they can do versus what they should do."

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Morillo replaced interim police chief Captain Stephen Dolinac who had served in the role since May 2021.

Matthew Soetebeer can be reached at matthew.soetebeer@student.shu.edu.

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