Brianna Rhodes and Tanya Roberts made Bayonne, New Jersey, history as the first Black women to be sworn in as police officers.
The pair were sworn in along with 28 officers from the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021. In that group was also the city’s first Filipino police officer, Mark Hermosisima.
Rhodes said her place on the force is to make sure it resembles the community.
“The Bayonne Police Department should resemble the community it serves and I’m humbled to say, I am a part of that change,” she said. Rhodes graduated from Bayonne High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Rutgers University.
She added, “I know it won’t be easy, but Officer Roberts and I will strive to take all necessary steps to serve, protect, and elevate the citizens of Bayonne.”
Roberts acknowledged the role’s great responsibility and hopes she can set a positive example for young Black women in the community.
“It is now up to Officer Rhodes and I to set an example for these young Black women to see something in us and to know that they too can become whatever it is they put their mind to,” Roberts said.
The rookie officer also hopes to change the community’s perception regarding policing.
“I want people to feel safe when they see me on the streets,” Roberts said. “I want everyone to know that I’m more than just another body, I am someone anyone can come up to and talk to, ask for advice, whatever it is, I’m all ears.”
Police Chief Robert Geisler said the incoming officers represent a changing police department to more seamlessly serve a diverse community.
“The better representation we have within the police department … the more easily we can interact with our community, and the more comfortable our community feels with our officers. It makes our job easier, and it puts the community at ease at the same point at the same time,” Geisler said.
Also present at the City Hall celebration and swearing-in ceremony was Camille High, cofounder of Black in Bayonne, a community organization that advocates for inclusivity and political and social change in the city.
She called the event a “momentous occasion.”
“This is great for Bayonne … This gives little Black and brown girls in the city a chance to say ‘Hey, I can be part of the police department too!’”