Bayonne has renamed a road and dedicated a commemorative bench to fallen Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals at 16th Street Park. The ceremony took place at the corner 16th Street and the access road to the park, now named Detective Joseph Seals Way.
Detective Seals, a Jersey City police officer and former Bayonne resident, died in the line of duty in 2019, during the terrorist attack on a Jewish Kosher supermarket in Jersey City. He was shot at Bayview Cemetery prior to the attack when he investigated the U-Haul van the terrorists were driving.
Residents and officials from Bayonne and Jersey City gathered at the site of the engraved granite bench near the stairs leading to the lower level of the park.
As it began to lightly rain, the ceremony began with the presentation of the colors by the Bayonne Pipe and Drums, Bayonne Police and Fire Honor Guards, the Jersey City Police Department Honor Guard. A man was overheard telling his child, “it was angels crying.”
A brief biography
Police Chief Robert Geisler, master of ceremonies, gave a brief overview of Seals’s life. A giant American flag swayed in the background.
“This evening we’re here to celebrate and remember Detective Joseph Seals of the Jersey City Police Department,” Geisler said. “Detective Seals was born in Jersey City, however, his family then moved to Bayonne, where he graduated from Bayonne High School. Seals began his career in law enforcement in 2001, with Hudson County Corrections. He served with the Corrections Department until 2005. He then entered and graduated from the Police Academy and joined the Jersey City Police Department. Joseph Seals was a dedicated and heroic police officer. He was known as one of the hardest working and most proactive cops on the job.”
Geisler continued: “Detective Seals was the recipient of numerous awards and was involved in the arrest of many criminals. His hard work and dedication to duty helped to ensure the safety of the residents of Jersey City. In 2000, he and his partner broke through an apartment window to tackle and arrest a man who was assaulting a woman. In 2010, he arrested a thief who was wanted in two robberies that were committed at gunpoint. In 2017, he was promoted to detective and was assigned to the ceasefire unit. This is a team of Jersey officers dedicated to taking guns off the streets of Jersey City.”
“Detective Seals was killed in the line of duty in Bayview Cemetery when he attempted to confront two suspects that were wanted for a murder that had occurred a few days prior right here in Bayonne,” Geisler said. “Joseph Seals was much more than a heroic civil servant. He was also a dedicated family man. We are honored to have members of the Seals family here with us. At Detective Seals funeral, one of his children, who I believe was Adrian, said the Joseph Seals will forever be remembered as an American hero. That statement is just as true today as it was then. Today, the Bayonne Police Department and the City of Bayonne are proud to join with the Seals family in remembering the heroism and life of Detective Joseph Seals. This evening’s events are a direct result of a vision that Mayor Davis had to honor Detective Seals in a way that his legacy and sacrifice would never be forgotten.”
The ultimate sacrifice
Mayor James Davis spoke on the sacrifice law enforcement officers like Seals make.
“To the Seals family, I wish we never had to do this,” Davis said. “We go to work every single day under the protection of our first responders, mainly our police officers and firefighters. Behind those police officers is a support family. Every single day, when they leave their house, their family doesn’t know if they’re going to come back through that door. The police officer himself or herself never thinks about that. It’s a strange feeling, and believe me, I know it.”
Davis retired as a captain from the Bayonne force.
“We go to work every single day as a police officer, never thinking about what could possibly happen to us,” Davis said. “When that call comes in, we’re running right to it. No fear, no anything. You run right there to help and fix what is going on without thinking about your safety. And you’re there to protect the people of your community. That’s what Detective Seals was doing. That’s what we all do each and every day. But that support system behind them, their family, their mother, father, husband or wife, their children, every day that officer walks out the door they’re the ones who are left wondering: ‘Will they come back?”
Davis continued: “We’re honoring Detective Seals because he made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the community of Jersey City. He gave his life on the line, not knowing what was happening. And he died not knowing what he almost prevented from happening. That’s why we are here today. And that’s why we can never forget, forever, Joseph Seals, who grew up on this street up the block. Seals will always be remembered here in the city of Bayonne as one our sons who gave his life to protect his community.”
Two cities intertwined
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Seals showed how Bayonne and Jersey City were intertwined.
“I’m here on behalf of the 300,000 people who call Jersey City home to say thank you to the great residents of Bayonne for honoring a Jersey City police officer,” Fulop said. “I think Jimmy Davis said it as perfectly as you can, that every day a police officer goes to work, they say goodbye to their loved ones and you never know what that day will have in store for you. You could say that really about every profession, but to police officers it’s a little bit different because of the interactions that they have on a day to day basis.”
Fulop continued: “In the case of Detective Seals, he was really one of our best detectives and one of our best officers. He took it upon himself to do more than what was called upon in a proactive way. And that ultimately ended up partially being the cause that put him in those circumstances. There’s no question, if you look at the facts of that day, that his actions saved countless people because he changed the trajectory of what that plan was earlier in the day. With his proactive nature, his love for the city, and his love for the police department that made a difference that day. Bayonne and Jersey City are intertwined. We’re neighbors, a lot of our residents move to Bayonne. People have shared backgrounds and histories here. We couldn’t be more thankful to have a neighbor like all of you.”
Street sign and bench unveiled
Officials including County Commissioner Anthony Romano and Nick Flora of the Jersey City Police Department spoke about Seals’s heroism. The Seals family thanked the officials for the recognition of Det. Seals’s legacy.
Officials then unveiled the sign on Detective Joseph Seals Way.
Four Jersey City police officers lifted an American flag to reveal the memorial images of Seals engraved on the commemorative bench.
A bugler played “Taps,” followed by a moment of silence during which a helicopter from the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit performed a flyover.
After the ceremony, a concert at the amphitheater featured The Beginnings, a Chicago Tribute band. A variety of food trucks were on hand.
T-shirts were sold to benefit the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which honors first responders, veterans, and their families for the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller who died while trying to save lives at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The foundation pays the mortgages of families of first responders who have died in the line of duty, including Seals’s.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.