BERGENFIELD, N.J. — Cathy Madalone made history in 1994 when she became the first woman to join the Bergenfield Police Department . But making history once wasn’t enough for this bold woman.
Now the 21-year veteran is becoming Bergen County’s first female police chief. Madalone will oversee a 44-member department where only one other officer is a woman.
“I was in the military and the ratio was 50 to 1,” said Cathy Racas, a dispatcher for the department. “I started in ’94, like Capt. Madalone, when there weren’t many women in the field, so she set the bar for us.
Madalone will be sworn in official at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“I put pressure on myself,” she said.
Madalone said in 1994 the department had to convert a restroom into a locker room just for her — a move she saw as a welcoming sign. She said she has never felt different as a woman in the department, always getting along with her male counterparts.
“She’s on the same page as being progressive and move the department,” one officer said.
Bergenfield is located just outside of New York City and has a relatively low crime rate. Their last murder was in 2002. Keeping crime low comes from a good police department, which received state money. However, departments across the state are cutting budgets and that is what challenges Madalone.
“Trying to get the equipment for the guys to do their jobs,” Madalone said, will be one of her biggest challenges.
Madalone hopes to increase community policing and youth programming as well.
“Kids are sponges. They absorb everything,” she said.
She is stern, yet sweet and extremely humble. She doesn’t seem to care much about her new parking spot steps from the main door of the station-house.
There is just one problem — this New Jersey police chief doesn’t like a staple of this state: taylor ham.
“It’s too greasy,” Madalone said.
But we’ll let her slide.