Meet Lashonda Burgess, who at age 43, is now the second in command of the Hillside, NJ police department. On April 3, 2017, Lashonda was named captain of the police department, which puts her in command behind the town’s police chief. With her appointment, it marks the first time the town has had a Black person or female of any race hold the second-highest ranking position in the police department.
In a town where 58 percent of the citizens are Black, the town’s police department is made up of primarily white men. With her appointment, Lashonda wants to bridge the divide between police officers and the minority communities they serve. She said she understands the issues facing both the citizens and the way they view the police, and the way police have to go about doing their job to protect the community they serve.
During a recent interview, she said “I wasn’t born a police officer. I was born a Black girl. So I’m able to understand the difference and why the perception is what it is.”
Lashonda said she knew she wanted to be a police officer since she was 11-years-old and she witnessed a female police officer handle a disturbance at her grandmother’s apartment building in Newark. With that experience, she realized that females could be both tough and feminine while being a police officer.
She has risen her way through the ranks of the Hillside police department, first as an auxiliary police officer in 1998 and then as a full-time officer in 2002. When she joined the department full-time, she was the town’s first Black officer and only it’s second female officer. In 2007, she became the first female sergeant and then the first female lieutenant in 2014.
Speaking of her new position, Lashonda said, “It surprises people that I am in the position that I’m in. They need to speak with the highest ranking officer, and then I show up, and they don’t believe that I’m the highest ranking officer.”
Lashonda’s daughter, Qualiyah Burgess, is following in her mom’s footsteps as a security officer in the U.S. Air Force. Qualiyah said she’s proud to watch her mom make history in the police department where she’s spent most of her career.