Phillis Bindi, BA’21, MAS’22 (Metro)

Employing Real-time, Tech-led Policing

An illustrated portrait of a woman.

Phillis Bindi (Illustration: Joel Kimmel)

“My grandparents came here, and they bought a house in East Orange, N.J.,” says Phillis Bindi, BA’21, MAS’22 (Metro), a lifelong resident and the chief of police. “They were my father’s parents, and we all lived in this house.”

As a child, riding her bicycle in the neighborhood, Bindi noticed an officer on the corner helping other kids cross the road, she says. Her interest in policing started there.

Back when she started in the department, there was an emphasis on safe neighborhood units, “to get officers back into the communities,” she explains. “We got to know the neighborhoods as beat cops.”

There was a higher crime rate when she came on the force in 1991, which was mitigated more than 85 percent over a 10- to 12-year period by instituting proactive policing.
As a sergeant and a lieutenant, Bindi led the enhanced community-safety team to address the quality-of-life concerns.

“Patrol is the hub. They answer the calls right from the dispatcher.” But, she says, “We have more than 100 cameras throughout the city that are monitored daily.”

The department employs shot-spotter technology as well. If a gun goes off, it sends an alert to phones as well as the Real-time Crime Prevention Center. This allows cameras to focus on where the gunshot occurred. “Our success in the capturing and/or prevention of the crime itself before it happens has been tremendous,” says Bindi.

“The trust our community has in us, and the faith they put in us — and us back to them — is second to none.”

School resource officers — another component of community policing— assist students in need and prevent criminal action within the school system. “They do a tremendous job,” says Bindi. “The relationships they build with our students spills over outside of school.”

Bindi is the first female chief of police in East Orange, honing her administrative skills with what she learned at FDU. “I am still a servant leader and a police officer,” she says.

Bindi credits the late Joseph Devine, MAS’02 (Metro), associate professor of administrative science, for first convincing her to enroll in FDU. “One of my detectives brought me in to speak in one of his classes when he did a paper on leadership. Professor Devine and I talked for about an hour after class, and he reached in his briefcase and handed me papers to fill out to enroll right then and there.”

Bindi also credits her late mother as an inspiration. “She was my number-one fan,” she says.

The East Orange police force is about 25 percent female. Bindi says her promotion to chief has enabled them to “know that they too can rise.”