Comey was sworn in by Mayor Jerramiah Healy at a ceremony on the steps of the South District Police Station on Bergen Avenue. Comey had served as a commander of that very district from 1993 to 2001.
After being sworn in, Comey promised to hold himself and the entire police department accountable for the rising crime statistics. Last year, the city suffered 39 homicides, the highest number in many years.
"From this day forward, I am responsible for the crime statistics in this city, so drop them right on my desk," said Comey. "It's up to me to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in this city."
When asked after the ceremony if Comey was going to serve as police chief until at least 2009, when Mayor Jerramiah Healy's term ends as mayor, he wasn't so straightforward.
Comey, who has more than 25 years on the force, could have retired starting in March.
"My quality of life revolves around two things - my health and my family," said Comey. "I will stay to get this job done if I maintain my health and quality of life with my family is not seriously impacted."
Comey said he wanted to stay as long as possible to get the crime statistics down.
Comey was chief of staff to outgoing Chief Robert Troy, who is retiring. Troy served as police chief from November 2004 until June 30, a total of 20 months.
Taking Comey's place as chief of staff is Capt. Hugh Donaghue, head of the department's Internal Affairs division.How he'll cut crime
At the swearing-in ceremony, Mayor Healy said, "Tom Comey has been a proven leader and has the respect of the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department."
Comey outlined some of his plan to get crime under control. One of his main goals will be to make each sergeant, who is in a supervisory role in the field, more proactive in criminal investigations. Also, there will an officer accompanying each sergeant. This procedure started this past Thursday.
Comey made his first major move as chief this past Monday when he reassigned about three dozen officers as part of a plan to put more police on the streets.
The move included putting 11 detectives back into the precincts, 12 police officers back into uniform and into the precincts. Comey is expected to reassign at least 35 more cops to precincts for more police presence in the streets.
"We're sending people back in the precincts. That's where we have to take our next step," said Comey. "I'm committed to allocating the resources to where we believe they are needed most."
Also, he will start placing more officers on patrol this summer in areas where senior citizens are shopping.
Comey also wants to be more proactive as chief, as he looks to join police on their patrols and car tours across the city.
"Don't be surprised to see me out there talking a walk around MLK Drive or on Central Avenue, don't be surprised to see that," said Comey. "That keeps in touch with what's going on in this department every day."
Comey said that he plans to go out on patrol "privately" to lead the officers "by example."
Comey also plans to reach out to the community further by having a town hall meeting in September similar to the one that the department held in March.
The March meeting was held in the auditorium of the new School No. 3 and criticized by some attendees as "dog and pony" show where the police was reacting only to criticism by Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop and a number of Downtown Jersey City residents.
"I will be back in September and I will answer questions," said Comey, who will also be looking a "partnership" with the community and may hold further town hall meetings depending on the success of the September meeting.
Comey also plans to make changes to the department's Web site to give information on arrests and crime statistics at a faster rate that is more accessible to the public.
When asked how his style of policing as chief will differ from his predecessor, Comey offered a quick response: "Watch me." Controversy comes with Chief Comey
Comey still brings baggage to the office. The issue at hand is his wife's ownership of a security firm, Direct Response, which employs off-duty police officers for work securing construction sites in Jersey City.
Questions were raised about Comey being the actual owner of the firm, which would violate state law prohibiting an active police officer from running a private security firm.
Comey issued a statement regarding his wife through city spokesman Stan Eason.
"She is a capable businesswoman," he wrote. "She runs the business and I perform my job and responsibilities here. It is a shame in 2006 that women are not given credit and are questioned on their ability to compete in industry dominated by men."
Has five children
Comey was born and raised in Jersey City, the son of a firefighter and a relative of several past police officers.
A graduate of Hudson Catholic Regional High School, Comey immediately went into the Naval Reserves. After fours of military service, he joined the police department in 1981.
Comey rose through the ranks starting as patrolman, then sergeant, detective commander, lieutenant, and chief of staff before becoming chief.
He and his wife Phyllis have five children and six grandchildren. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com