Police Chief Michael Kelly looked out over the crowded council chambers during the swearing-in of nine new police officers on March 6.
A deep plunge in the temperature outside city hall did not stop friends and family members of new officers from attending and cheering when each recruit walked up to the podium to collect his or her new police badge.
Kelly in a brief speech said they were joining the finest police department in America and urged them not to lose the enthusiasm they had when they first joined.
Kelly said crime is down and this year the department is setting new records for taking illegal guns off the street, “without firing a shot.”
“This department is well respected and we hope that you will add to that,” he said. “But you picked a tough time to become police officers. This is not an easy job and these are difficult times for police. But if you do what you were hired to do and help the community – help that little old lady cross the street – the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.”
Cops save lives, he said. They solve crimes and put burglars away who prey on innocent people.
“The feeling when you do these things is unbelievable and make up for whatever hardships,” Kelly said.
Much of this has to do with enthusiasm for the job, something he said he has maintained after 32 years on the police force, although at times he said he’s had to check to make sure he still has it.
“Great cops are obvious from day one,” Kelly said. “Everything we do is governed by personal integrity. We have to do the right thing for ourselves, our department and our citizens, and what is lawful, and what the community needs us to do. If you do, then everybody in the police department will be proud.”
“More than half of the police department is now made up of minorities.” — Mayor Steven Fulop.
The swearing-in is part of Jersey City’s continuing effort to expand the police department. Half of the new officers represent minority populations, holding true to the entire department’s makeup since the Fulop administration set out to add focus on diversity recruitment.
“More than half of the police department is now made up of minorities,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “We’ve worked hard to get to where we are today, and will continue efforts towards recruiting a diverse department, one that reflects this city, the most diverse in the nation.”
This latest class of recruits, combined with 56 others finishing the academy, brings the Jersey City Police Department to a total of 952 sworn officers, surpassing the administration’s goal for continued expansion. The added officers will aid efforts to increase police presence with walking patrols, community outreach, crime deterrence, and diversity recruitment initiatives.
“We made it a priority to expand the police department, reaching historic levels this city hasn’t seen in several decades, so we can strategically deploy our officers and increase public safety citywide,” said Public Safety Director James Shea. “And we have another class of 18 recruits beginning their training at the academy later this month.”
The new officers included George M. Rodriguez, Karina Y. Cruz, Joseph J. Corallo, Shamar Thomas, Malby M. Almonte Jr., Frank E. Rodriguez, Robert G. Fisher, Christopher Keating, and Anthony J. Delia.
Crime is down, partly due to more police
During the ceremony Police Captain Edgar Martinez celebrated the arrival of new recruits, looking as proud of them as the parents and friends who cheered them on from the audience.
Since taking office in July of 2013, Fulop has hired more than 250 new police officers, including this class.
This comes at a time when the city faces rising costs for training at police academies throughout the state. Jersey City closed its facility more than a decade ago and has since been sending its recruits elsewhere. The cost for the next class of recruits keeps rising every year.
In his state of the county address earlier this year, County Executive Tom DeGise recommitted the county to creating an academy in Secaucus, using the site of the former youth detention center. This would lower the cost of training officers for the county and its municipalities. Under state law, only counties can create and operate academies for training of police.
Residents in a number of neighborhoods in Jersey City have been clamoring for greater police visibility. Stationing of police patrols in known trouble spots has been credited for the reduction of violent crimes in those areas.
While shooting related deaths and gun violence continue to be an issue in certain parts of the city, statistics show an overall decline.
“We expect new officers to help keep protecting our citizens,” Kelly said.
But he also reminded the officers that they are here to serve the public.
For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org