Undersheriff, Civil Process Division,
Essex County Sheriff’s Office
Jesús Padilla was born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico in 1941. He moved to New York City in 1955, joining his parents who had migrated to the mainland two years previous. After his parents’ separation, Mr. Padilla moved to Newark, New Jersey with his father. Mr. Padilla joined the United States Navy after graduating from high school, and served in Vietnam. He had an interest in a career in law enforcement and, after returning from deployment, he joined the Newark Police Department in 1967, just prior to the start of the Newark Riots. With the rising unrest in the city, Mr. Padilla was assigned to the Community Relations Bureau and served as a police department spokesperson with various Latino community organizations. He also helped spearhead a program to increase the number of Latino police officers by recruiting high school students who were encouraged to finish their education in order to take advantage of the career opportunities in the police department. Additionally, during his time at the Newark Police Department, Mr. Padilla was able to take advantage of his Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, and received his bachelor’s in political science. After retiring from the police department, Jesús Padilla was elected to the Freeholder Board and later appointed Undersheriff, Civil Process Division, of Essex County.
Prepared by Elizabeth Parker, Associate Archivist.
Hear Jesus Padilla discuss his experience as a police officer during the 1967 Newark Riots:
“During the riots, I think having come home from Vietnam recently helped me adapt to it because I have seen [gun]fire, bullet sounds, it didn’t bother me at all. So, I adapted, I thought I was back in Vietnam, that’s how I felt. I mean, there’s still fear that you’re going to get hit, but we found out that the black community, when they took to the streets, they didn’t have any weapons; they did not have any weapons. I mean, there [was] a lot of bullets fired, people were killed, but I believe that most of them, deep inside, I didn’t see any black members of the community up there with weapons. Most of the shooting was done by National Guardsmen and State Troopers and our Newark Police. So, you know, it just goes to show you, even I believe the report that was done by the Commission of the 67 Disturbance—it wasn’t a riot, it was a disturbance—they agree with that, that there were no weapons. We didn’t lock [up] anybody with a weapon, machete I saw, I locked up a guy with a machete. He was coming at me, I told him, I drew my weapon and said, “Listen, you have a choice, put it down, or you’re going to get killed.” Thank God the guy put the weapon down, we locked him up. But, it’s scary, but then again, I didn’t see, to this day I still say anywhere I go, I didn’t see any weapons in the black community…, can’t say that we confiscated any weapons, some people might say that. You know, cops are known through[out] history to plant weapons, you know, the city of New York, maybe New York is the best. They shoot you, you come up with a weapon somehow, you got a weapon, I think if we confiscated any guns, it must have been planted. But no, I didn’t see any weapons and I spent every day, we were working, we started working 16 hour shifts.”
Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see p. 22-23 of the complete interview transcript.
Access to full verbatim interview transcripts and audio recordings are available by appointment only. Contact an NJHRIC archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org, (973) 733–4791, or via mail, NJHRIC at The Newark Public Library, 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102 with your request.
For an extensive and specific list of peoples, places, organizations and topics discussed in this oral history, please see the Interview Transcript Index.
All uses of these transcriptions are covered by copyright agreement between the interview participants and the NJHRIC at The Newark Public Library. Under “fair use” standards, excerpts of up to three hundred words (per interview) may be used without the NJHRIC’s permission, so long as the materials are properly cited (see citation note). Any excerpting beyond three hundred words requires written permission of the Project Archivist, appropriate citation, and may require a fee, especially if this is a commercial publication or production. Under certain circumstances non-profit users may be granted a waiver of the fee. Please contact email@example.com for copyright questions.
This project was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
Additionally, any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the Newark Public Library or the New Jersey Research and Information Center at the Newark Public Library.