Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly will retire on Feb. 1, according to Mayor Steven Fulop, Public Safety Director James Shea, and Police Director Tawana Moody.
Kelly joined the JCPD in 1987 starting as a patrol officer and rose through the ranks to become the leader of the department in 2018.
“Chief Kelly has had a decorated career, and as I have said before, I credit his leadership for getting us through the December 10th mass shooting last year that had the potential to cause much greater devastation within our community,” Fulop said. “It’s his effective leadership that has led to historic downward trends in crime in recent years and kept us from seeing the spikes in violence that most other cities have experienced throughout the pandemic. I’m grateful for Chief Kelly’s leadership and his 34 years serving our community. I wish him the best of luck in his retirement.”
Kelly, 59, began his career at JCPD working midnight patrol in the North District. He later worked in the Narcotics Division, became an East District Detective, Homicide Detective, Major Case Commander, and Deputy Chief, among other roles.
Cracking cases, pursuing bad guys
He credits his work as a homicide detective for exposing him to the aspects of police work that intrigue him most, cracking cases and pursuing criminals.
“I always had assignments in my career that were exciting,” Kelly said. “Working in narcotics gave me a look at the underbelly of the narcotics trade and an awful lot of arrests. Then I was a Homicide Detective for a number of years, then Executive Officer in Investigations. I really got a chance to see all sides of the police department. From there, I got the job that I wanted the most which was Chief of Detectives. Detective work has always been a fascination for me, and the pursuit of bad guys was always an intriguing part of why I like police work. I thought I was done until I was honored with the chance to be Chief of Police.”
Throughout his three decades-plus on the force, Kelly acquired numerous accolades, including Excellent Police Service Awards, Commendations, a Combat Cross, and Honorable Mention Valor Award.
“Being chief of one of the largest municipal police departments in the state comes with its share of challenges, but Chief Kelly has done an excellent job of leading our 920-plus officers to further establish a quality police department committed to law enforcement, crime prevention and suppression, and community relations,” Shea said. “We’re very thankful for his service.”
Kelly said he’s emotional about preparing for retirement as he reflects on his career, and recalled how he started off as a stockbroker in the 1980s before making the life-changing decision to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad had such an impression on me,” Kelly said. “He loved being a Jersey City cop. So, when my career as a stockbroker wasn’t going so well, I decided to join the police department I had heard so much about from him. From there, what has always been the driving factor for me to be a better cop is the unfortunate line-of-duty deaths of so many police officers. I think that has always been in the background of my career, and I’m grateful for all of the great men and women, past and present, that I have had the honor to work with in serving the Jersey City community.”