PALISADES PARK, N.J. -- The borough appointed its first-ever Korean American police sergeant and borough clerk at the same time.
More than 100 spectators gathered at the Municipal Complex on July 28 for the swearings in of new Detective Sgt. Shawn Lee and Clerk Gina S. Kim.
The borough police committee unanimously agreed that Lee, hired 11 years ago, is the “most suited and successful candidate for the position of sergeant,” Police Chief Benjamin Ramos said.
Lee “exhibits the highest levels of discipline essential to the command staff of a paramilitary organization,” the chief wrote in a letter to the council.
The committee, which interviewed 15 candidates for supervisory positions, cited Lee’s work ethic, as well as his “loyalty to the community and dedication to his oath of office,” he said.
Although Palisades Park has the state’s largest concentration of Koreans, only two of the department’s 31 officers are of that nationality.
“There is [an] urgent need to represent the Korean community by fostering a harmonious relationship between the police department and the community we serve,” Ramos wrote.
Lee, who was honorably discharged after serving three years in the U.S. Army as a combat tank crewman during the Kosovo Conflict, was a special police officer and dispatcher with the borough from 2001-2004 after serving as a volunteer intern.
He has received the department’s prestigious Police Valor Award, as well as the PBA’s Meritorious Award, and was inducted into the Police Honor Legion for arresting an armed suspect.
A borough Police Honor Guard member, Lee has been assigned the past three years to the detective bureau, “a crucial area to consider as a prerequisite for a leadership position, but more importantly a key area to engage with the Korean community,” Ramos said.
He also serves on the Bergen County Rapid Deployment Force.
Lee is president of KABLE (Korean American Brotherhood in Law Enforcement), a non-profit collection of local, county, state and federal law enforcement officers pledged to foster and promote police-community partnerships.
Kim filled the vacancy left by this summer's death of longtime clerk Martin Gobbo, who served for 16 years.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.