While Jersey City Police Chief Mike Kelly celebrated the Night Out Against Crime events held throughout Jersey City on Aug. 7, he said there are many other ways to promote a re-energized community police program.
“Every night should be night out,” he said.
When he was sworn in as police chief in January, after several scandals had rocked the department, Kelly laid the groundwork for a new community policing program and a new emphasis on ethics, efforts he has continued to emphasize.
“Let’s face it, we’ve had it tough the last few years,” he said in an interview at the swearing-in ceremony for new captains and sergeants on Aug. 9. That followed a similar ceremony on Aug. 7 promoting 17 probationary deputy police chiefs.
Events like Night Out and a number of other community-oriented programs are the heart of an effort to recreate trust between the police department and the community.
“These events form a good bridge between the department and the community,” he said. “We want people to get to know the police and the police to know the people.”
Such familiarity, he said, is a necessity in a city as diverse as Jersey City, where trust is the key bridge in the community and law enforcement relationship.
Night Out took place in Audubon Park, Pershing Field, Arlington Park, and Hamilton Park. Thousands of people took part in a host of events.
Councilman Daniel Rivera said the idea was to bond the community with the police and promote public safety.
“Chief Kelly wants to make sure there is a link between the police and the community, and this is one of the ways he’s doing it,” Rivera said.
“Every night should be night out.” – Mike Kelly
Many of the promotions made in early August, Kelly said, fill gaps at the supervisory level in the department caused by retirements and a vast expansion of personnel and programs over the last five years.
Kelly said supervisors are key appointments because nearly 40 percent of the personnel in the police department have four years or less of experience. Thanks to the support of Mayor Steven Fulop and the City Council, the department has seen an increase from about 750 to 950 officers.
While Night Out is only one night a year, Kelly has expanded community policing on a number of fronts, including more frequent police and community events throughout the year.
Kelly and Mayor Fulop said one of the significant changes taking place is diversity in the department. Over the last five years, the department has hired people to better resemble the community’s demographic complexion.
Closer contact with the community has allowed the department to find out about and tackle major issues, one of which is preventing gun violence. Fulop said over the last few years the police have taken off the street more than 200 illegal guns, all without violence.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.