I met Joe Kelly on December 14th, 1981. He was fresh out of the Police Academy and he was one of 10 that would become the new Eaton Rapids Police Department. There was Dave King (Chief), Michael Seeley (Sgt), Dan Cermak (Patrol officer), Michael Prince (Patrol officer), Michael McManus (Patrol officer), Michael Catalino (Patrol officer), Jay Newcomb (Patrol officer), Brenda Morrill (Patrol officer), Joe Kelly (Patrol officer) and myself.
We all had various levels of experience, and in some cases that level of experience was no experience. We learned together. We learned the community. We learned how to depend on each other. We learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We learned what community policing was before an MSU Professor hung a name on it.
The members built the department. Our first home was in the Eaton Rapids Fire Department building. We were given two offices and access to shared space. We designed the shoulder patch, we built the counter tops, we hung cupboards, we learned the streets, we were fitted for gear, we equipped cars and we developed a sense of purpose. We did this together in 14 days. We embraced a community that none of us had been a part of. At first, there was considerable suspicion and questions but as time went on a bond developed. After all, we weren’t going anywhere.
Through it all, Joe Kelly was a bright spot. Quick with a joke or a smile. Always willing to extend a hand to someone that needed it. Whether it be a citizen or one of his fellow officers. He served as the department DARE officer and formed a bond with a generation of students that are now young adults, many of which have children in our school system.
Sergeant F. Joseph Kelly passed away on Thursday, May 28th. He proudly served his community for over 25 years. Please take a moment in your day to remember Joe. As one of the “Original 10” my sense of loss is profound. With everything else that is taking place this has struck me the hardest. I will miss my friend.
To the Class of 2020,
The generation associated with World War II is commonly called the “Greatest Generation.” Why you ask? Because they rose above adversity. They survived the Great Depression. They fought a war without parallel. They worked tirelessly to make sure that their country stood tall. They had no sense of individual self but recognized that we are stronger together.
This is your opportunity to make your mark. Adversity is hitting you from every angle. Whether it be a disease, social unrest, political animus or global tension. Develop the ability not to succumb to adversity but to become diverse. Look inside yourselves. Make an impact. Don’t do it for yourself, do it for those around you. Develop a philosophy as you move forward. Yesterday was yesterday and it can’t be changed-there are no do overs-move forward. Today is today and will evolve as you go through your day. Make good choices and use your philosophy to guide you. Tomorrow is tomorrow. The opportunities are boundless. Use yesterday and today as your compass.
Be remembered for what you did for others not what you did to others. Be the generation that future generations will look upon and say “They got it right.”
Congratulations on your accomplishments.
I grew up in East Dearborn, Michigan. The youngest of 4 siblings. My two sisters and my brother were teenagers when I made my appearance for the first time. My mom was a nurse and my dad was a pipefitter for the Ternstedt Division of General Motors.
We had a Mayor by the name of Orville Hubbard. He ruled Dearborn with an iron fist. There was no diversity, especially not in the race category.
The recent happenings are horrendous. I am embarrassed for my profession. I am embarrassed that more hasn’t been done. I am embarrassed that law enforcement leaders are joining with the protestors in a show of solidarity.
Why? Because it isn’t new. The officer that committed that murder in Minneapolis was allowed to get to that point. He didn’t just wake up a week ago and say to himself “I think I will go out and murder somebody today.” That type of behavior had been tolerated. It doesn’t matter if the victim was black, white, Asian or Indian. There has to be social change for this to be unacceptable.
As a kid growing up in all white E. Dearborn in the 60’s I saw my first truly offensive act committed by a Police Officer. It impacted me so much that I became a Police Officer to fight for those that didn’t have a voice.
East Dearborn during that time was a white enclave. If you weren’t white you didn’t live there. Orville saw to that. One summer afternoon my friends and I were playing baseball at Geer Park. Baseball was life to us, much like the movie “Sandlot.” We never paid much attention to the signage in the park. Especially not the sign that read “Dearborn parks are for the express use of Dearborn residents. Violations are Misdemeanors and are subject to a $500.00 fine and or 90 days in jail. It didn’t apply to us so who cares.
A station wagon, I remember it was green and had the faux wooden sides, pulled up in the designated parking spaces and a family of four got out. Two little girls, a mom and a dad. The little girls were wearing dresses as was the mom. The dad was casually dressed. The little girls immediately dashed to the swings. The parents set about removing the picnic basket and charcoal from the car.
They walked over to one of the pavilions with a grill. Mom began to set out the food and dad fired up the grill. About 5 minutes later a patrol car rolled up and the two police officers exited. They walked over to the dad and asked “Do you have identification?” The dad said “Why, what did I do?” The officer repeated the question and the dad again asked “what did I do?” At this point the white police officers grabbed the dad, did I mention that the family was black, and walked the dad over to the sign. They slammed his face against the sign and one of the officers said “Can you read the sign (insert racial epithet)?” “You don’t live in Dearborn.” They walked the dad over to the car, forced his face into the trunk, and handcuffed him. They opened the back driver’s side door and “tossed” him in and drove off leaving the mom yelling and the children screaming.
That was the day that I decided that I would become a police officer and fight for those that had no voice of their own and through my career I did so.
Is rioting justified? Is protesting justified? Is social injustice and intolerance justified? Are inequities in pay justified? I can’t answer those questions for anyone but me. I’m merely asking that you judge the actions based on the perceptions of those being subjected to the perceived wrongs not on your own life experiences.
I have related to you a story that profoundly impacted my life. Find something in yours that did the same.
I bid you Peace,