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Prosecutor's Office Appoints First African-American Woman to Key Post

Quovella Spruill named deputy chief of county law enforcement agency

For years, when the management of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has had a question or a problem to be resolved, the first response has often been simply to “Ask Q.”

“If you want something done, ask Q, and she can do it,” said Acting Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.

Quovella M. Spruill -- or “Q,” as she’s known around the Leroy Smith Public Safety Building in Newark -- on Friday officially became the first African-American woman to be named deputy chief of the county law enforcement agency, where she will help oversee a staff of 120 investigators and other personnel.

During a swearing-in ceremony Friday, colleagues praised Spruill, who had served as acting deputy since May, for her tremendous work ethic and mastery of the details of law enforcement.

“I think it’s the toughest decision we have to make, to decide who to promote,” said Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose. “I think this office has a lot of talent. But today we’re talking about a young lady I met five years ago who really shined.”

Ambrose, who said he routinely receives texts on work matters from Spruill throughout the night, went on to recount a sexual assault investigation in a suburban town a few years ago.

“She went in and took over....I got into the car and I told Paula Dow [the county prosecutor at the time] ‘Wow, I’m really impressed’.”

Law enforcement was not the first choice of career for Spruill, a married 42-year-old mother of two young children. After earning an engineering degree at NJIT, she first went to work for the city of Newark, eventually becoming manager of the city’s Parks and Grounds Department. Along the way, Spruill earned a master’s degree at Seton Hall University.

In 1998, she joined the prosecutor’s office as an investigator and quickly worked her way up the ranks, serving stints in the homicide, special victims and professional standards units and earning repeated promotions throughout her career at the agency.

Speakers praised Spruill for bringing an engineer's precision to a broad range of tasks, including novel assignments like marshaling the recources of the prosecutor's office to aid in the repsonse to Hurricane Sandy last month.

As deputy chief, her duties will include handling citizen complaints, the special victims unit, the corruption/bias unit and human resources.

During brief remarks Friday, the born-and-raised Newarker expressed pride in her hometown and the county where she grew up.

“Newark is my home no matter where I lay my head, and Essex County is in my heart,” she said.

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