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Morris County Celebrates the Retirement of Morristown’s First African American Police Officer

By metrostaff on
Morris County

By: Yuritza Arroyo

The Morris County Commissioners honored Morristown Patrol Sergeant Beverly Downey at the Commissioners Public Meeting this evening, presenting a special Resolution of Honor to recognize her 26 years of dedicated service with the Morristown Police Department.

According to officials, those praising Downey’s tenure at the ceremony included Chief Warrant Officer Jack Ambrose of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office; Morristown Councilwoman Toshiba Foster; Lieutenant Mike Molnar and fellow Morristown patrol officers; and friends and family of Sgt. Downey.

“Commissioner Director John Krickus opened the ceremony with remarks about Sgt. Downey’s admirable career is a story that begins with Downey aspiring to make a difference in her hometown 26 years ago when she applied for a position with the Morristown Bureau of Police.  

She was selected for appointment on August 4, 1997, and attended the 51st introductory police recruit class at the Morris County Public Safety Training Center.

“When there was trouble, and everyone else was running away, you were running to it. You always responded to the emergency, and we thank you for that,” stated Director Krickus.

Upon graduation, Sgt. Downey was assigned to the Patrol Division—foot post on the night shift—not an unusual assignment for new officers. However, one characteristic did distinguish

Downey from her fellow officers: with her appointment, she became the first African American woman ever to wear a Morristown Bureau of Police uniform.

Morris County Chief Warrant Officer Jack Ambrose, who taught Sgt. Downey, in training academy 26 years ago, celebrated her achievements.

“When Sgt. Downey came through training, I pushed her to the limit. She was always prepared for whatever trouble came her way… I’m proud to say I served with her,” stated Chief Ambrose before handing her a plaque award on behalf of Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.

For more than a quarter-century, Sgt. Downey devoted herself to work in the Patrol Division, always ready to respond to the call for service.  

She received numerous Life Saving awards, Good Conduct Service awards, Honorable Service awards, an Exceptional Duty Citation, and the Estelle Walker-Hinkins award for Community Service from the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Councilwoman Foster read and presented a certificate on behalf of Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty. 

“Speaking not as a Council member, but as a resident, thank you for your service throughout the years… I felt protected and know you always prioritized the safety of our community,” stated Councilwoman Foster in her personal remarks.

“Sgt. Downey accomplished another historic milestone on December 7, 2020, when she was sworn in as a Patrol Sergeant, making her the first African American woman ever to be promoted to a supervisor position within the Morristown Bureau of Police.  

With this new rank, she assumed the responsibility of management and supervision of a squad of uniformed officers, a role often described as one of the most challenging in policing.

Her official retirement and walk-out ceremony took place on January 26 outside police headquarters located at Morristown Town Hall.

“She’s managed some major incidents, including a murder, a deceased child that is currently in the media, a very difficult case. Without her smart thinking and making the right decisions, that case could have gone south… She’s an excellent officer, excellent sergeant, and an even better person,” said Lt. Molnar, who worked directly with Sgt. Downey for over 20 years. 

At the end of the ceremony, Director Krickus presented a Resolution of Honor to Sgt. Downey, which cited, “Sgt. Downey served with distinction and retired with full honors after completing 26 years of dedicated public service. She is a role model for the greater Morris County community and stands as a shining example of the opportunity possible for all who choose to pursue a career in public safety.”

Sgt. Downey thanked everyone for coming out and supporting her as she moved on from the Morristown Police Department. She is not sure what her next career move will be but is proud of what she has accomplished so far.

At the same meeting, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution proclaiming February 2023 Black History Month