Jersey City Police Chief Kelly set to retire next month after over three decades of service

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Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly is set to retire, effective February 1st, after over three decades of service, city officials announced this evening.

Outgoing Police Chief Michael Kelly. Photo courtesy of the City of Jersey City.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“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,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.

“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.”

Chief Kelly, 59, began his career on the Jersey City Police Department working midnight patrol in the North District after being sworn in on November 1st, 1987, according to public records.

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. 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 to a chance to see all sides of the police department,” Kelly noted.

“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.”

Kelly also noted that his dad was a Jersey City police officer, part of what prompted him to give up being a stockbroker and pursuing a career in law enforcement.

“ … 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,” Kelly continued

“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.”

Throughout his 34 career, Chief Kelly acquired numerous accolades for his accomplishments, including numerous Excellent Police Service Awards, Commendations, a Combat Cross, and Honorable Mention Valor Award.

He was promoted to sergeants of operations in the West District in 2003, a lieutenant, night detective, and major case commander in 2004, a captain, as well as patrol and investigations executive officer, in 2011, the West District Commander in 2013, and then deputy chief and the chief of detectives in 2017.

Kelly was then named chief in the beginning of 2018.

“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. We’re very thankful for his service,” added Director Public Safety Director James Shea.

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