NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro has announced that he is retiring from the department.

Cordeiro, who has been serving on the force in New Bedford for 35 years, including the last five as Chief of Police, will wrap up his career on April 23. Deputy Chief Paul J. Oliveira will take over as Acting Chief of Police on April 24, the City of New Bedford announced in a press release.

“I am grateful to have worked with the amazing men and women of the New Bedford Police Department over the course of my career. I profoundly appreciate the support of our community, without which our many accomplishments over my five-year term as chief would not have been possible,” Cordeiro said in the release, noting he was proud to be the first Portuguese immigrant to serve as Chief of Police in New Bedford. “It has been my great privilege over the past 35 years to serve the people of the city I love.”

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The release noted that although Cordeiro had been eligible for retirement for several years, he only just discussed retiring with Mayor Jon Mitchell last year. The City said Cordeiro was committed to fulfilling the term of his contract, which ends tomorrow, April 9, “to provide stability during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.”

“I am deeply grateful for Chief Cordeiro’s leadership of the Police Department for the past five years, and for his career in service to the residents of our city,” said Mayor Mitchell. “Under his leadership, New Bedford became a safer city; the decline in both violent and property crimes during his tenure were among the steepest in the country. At the core of his success was his focus on relational policing; he has emphasized that police build legitimacy and reduce crime by fostering strong working relationships with residents and community groups. His concern for the well-being of his fellow residents was plain to see, and it enabled him to command their trust, which is the foundation of effective policing. I appreciate the chief’s willingness to remain through the end of his contract, so that the department could respond effectively to the pandemic and help keep his officers safe.”

Mitchell appointed Cordeiro, who at the time was division commander of the downtown station, to the position of chief in May 2016. Over his career, Cordeiro had commanded several units, including the Background Investigations, Juvenile, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Organized Crime and Narcotics, Traffic, and Animal Control Units.

Read the full release on Chief Cordeiro's retirement hereChief Cordeiro Announces Retirement

The release points out that since Cordeiro became chief in 2016, “violent and property crime in the city has declined significantly.” The release also touted his “community policing philosophy, including walk and talk among the patrol division, and partnerships with the city’s public schools.”

It also noted Cordeiro “spearheaded significant partnerships between the Police Department and community organizations, including pioneering the first law enforcement assisted diversion program in Massachusetts to provide treatment to those suffering from addiction.”

Cordeiro has been a controversial figure in his time as chief as well. When former New Bedford Harbormaster David Condon was forced to resign because he would not adhere to the City’s residency requirement, Mitchell nominated Cordeiro – a Dartmouth resident – to take over as harbormaster, a move that required the New Bedford City Council to approve a residency waiver.

Cordeiro also had frequent clashes with the New Bedford Police Union, which voted in opposition to the chief in 2019 and asked Mitchell to remove Cordeiro from office. Mitchell dismissed the union’s moves as “negotiating tactics” while the union was trying to come to terms on a new labor agreement with the City.

More recently, the union questioned Cordeiro’s handling of the shooting of an officer’s home in the Brickenwood development, as well as questioning claims by Cordeiro and the City that crime is down 38 percent in New Bedford over the past decade.

Deputy Chief Oliveira will bring nearly 30 years of experience to the role of Acting Chief of Police. Oliveira was appointed Deputy Chief by Mayor Mitchell in 2015 at Chief Cordeiro’s recommendation, the City said. Before serving as Deputy Chief, Oliveira led the department’s Professional Standards Division as captain, and previously led the department’s Narcotics Division.

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