ATLANTIC CITY — James Sarkos has been named acting chief of the Atlantic City Police Department, leading local officials to hope he will soon get the chief job outright.
“I am pleased to announce James Sarkos as Acting Chief of the Atlantic City Police Department,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a written statement. “Throughout his tenure as Interim Officer-in-Charge, Deputy Chief Sarkos has distinguished himself as an exemplary leader of the Atlantic City Police Department and the community he has committed his life to protect.”
Sarkos has been working since October 2020 under the title interim officer-in-charge. Former Chief Henry White retired in September 2020.
The appointment was made Wednesday by the director of the state Division of Local Government Services, Jacquelyn Suárez, as permitted under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act.
“I have shown unwavering support for Chief Sarkos from day one,” Mayor Marty Small Sr. said in a statement. “I believe in upward mobility from the ranks, and this decision shows that. I have full faith in his ability to make meaningful changes to our department and be the true leader that we need for the fine men and women in blue of the Atlantic City Police Department.”
Sarkos said he is grateful for the confidence placed in him.
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“I look forward to continuing to serve the residents and visitors of this great city,” Sarkos said. “It remains my honor to lead the dedicated and courageous Officers of the Atlantic City Police Department.”
City Council President George Tibbitt said he’s excited to see movement in the right direction, toward eventually making Sarkos chief.
“From what I’ve been told we have to let the Civil Service process play out,” Tibbitt said, “and he’ll finally get what he’s earned and to be called ‘chief.’”
It’s been difficult for Sarkos to run the department without the security of being appointed chief, Tibbitt said.
“You do the best you can in those circumstances. It’s a thankless job,” Tibbitt said. “Sometimes you piss people off, and it’s tough not having any type of protections for your decisions.”
Many officials, including Small, have been referring to Sarkos as “chief” for months.
Sarkos started his law enforcement career in 1995 as a Class I special law enforcement officer for the Ventnor Police Department. He worked as a Class II officer for the Wildwood Police Department during the summers of 1996-1999.
He was hired as a full-time police officer for the Linwood Police Department in October 1999.
In October 2000, he started his career with the Atlantic City Police Department. Then in 2006 he was promoted to sergeant, lieutenant in 2011, captain in 2016 and deputy chief in 2018.
Sarkos has supervised in the department’s Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Section and Special Investigations Section. He also has served on the SWAT Team as an operator, team leader and commander, and served as a patrol officer and vice detective earlier in his career.
Murphy said Sarkos has made progress in strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and residents.
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Suarez said Sarkos has developed a new force deployment plan, based on programs that have been proven successful in many cities throughout the country.
“Atlantic City residents will have the opportunity to participate in bi-weekly meetings with the ACPD, Atlantic City officials, and community leaders on joint initiatives focused on problem solving, quality of life issues, and criminal activity that will make Atlantic City a better place to live, work, and play,” Suarez said.
Sarkos has long been considered the frontrunner for the permanent job of chief, but Civil Service Commission rules have slowed the process, officials have said.
“Under Civil Service rules, the city must issue a police chief promotional announcement,” DCA spokesperson Lisa Ryan said in a July 1 email response to questions about the appointing of a chief. “Issuing such a promotional announcement is an invitation for eligible applicants to apply in order to determine if a chief-of-police test is necessary.”
The commission is expected to start the process with that announcement Aug. 1.
In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.
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James Sarkos, shown last year, has been named acting chief of the Atlantic City Police Department after spending nearly two years as interim officer-in-charge.
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