By Graig Graziosi
Three weeks have passed since Patrick Kelly was sworn in as Campbell’s new police chief, and he’s still settling into his new role.
He brings a lot of experience to the job: Kelly retired as a detective sergeant last year after a 28-year career with the Youngstown Police Department. He began his career as a patrolman in the neighborhood where he grew up; the Buckeye Circle on the city’s South Side.
Eventually he moved from patrol to crisis intervention – which deals primarily with domestic violence – before moving on to be included in the city’s Problem Interdiction Team. The PIT team – essentially a specialized street crime unit – was focused on drug investigations and arrests and responding to gang activity.
“At that time, there was still a lot of open-air drug dealing,” Kelly said. “So we’d ride around in a black van we called ‘Midnight’ and bust up the deals.”
Kelly went on to join the detective division, where he eventually became a homicide investigator.
When an old family friend became the city’s new chief of police, Kelly found himself at a career crossroads.
“Chief Bob Bush is like a second father to me. I’ve known him for most of my life,” Kelly said. “When he became chief, he asked me if I’d be interested in heading up a street crimes unit. I liked doing homicide, but I decided I’d give it a shot.”
At street crimes, Kelly was in charge of six officers, and he used his experience on the PIT team to inform the way he ran the unit.
He only ran the team for about four years before a change in administration resulted in his return to investigations.
“Every time a new chief comes in, things change. So I went back to homicide for about a decade,” Kelly said.
Before he retired last June, Kelly went on to work as a community police officer during the administration of Youngstown Mayor John McNally, all the while continuing to investigate drug crime.
In Campbell the police chief earns an annual salary of $48,500.
Mayor Nick Phillips – a former police officer himself – said he was aware of Kelly’s reputation and was interested in him as a candidate for chief.
“He came highly recommended. I wanted someone who obviously had a lot of experience and who held a rank in a supervisory position. I wanted someone who was involved in different aspects of law enforcement,” Phillips said.
Campbell council President George Levendis said during a council meeting that he “couldn’t find anyone to say a bad word about Kelly – and I tried.”
Kelly is the city’s third chief since 2013. Former chief Drew Rauzan left the department voluntarily in 2017 in exchange for the city rescinding its decision to terminate him following allegations into sexual misconduct from which he was ultimately cleared. His successor, Dennis Puskarcik, resigned amid an investigation into allegations that he improperly accessed the department’s evidence locker. He was also cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by an internal investigation.
Kelly said he recognized the department’s rocky last several years, but wants to focus on moving the department forward.
To get acquainted with the city, Kelly has been wearing a standard Campbell police uniform and taking occasional patrol rides with his officers to meet residents and business owners.
Kelly characterizes himself as laid back and encourages his officers to come to him with ideas for solving problems and improving the department.
Currently, he and Lt. Kevin Sferra are working to re-write the department’s official policies.
Moving forward, Kelly plans to expand the department’s street-crime efforts, focusing on increased investigations of homes and businesses where illegal drug sales have been reported.
He is also a major proponent of continual education, both for himself and his officers. He intends to send individual officers to specialized training schools – such as field officer training and tactical schools – when funding allows.
As for himself, he says he will continue to learn about his role and the city as he continues to work as the chief.
“I’m still learning. I’m going to keep learning,” Kelly said. “I may not be able to meet everyone in Campbell, but I’m going to make sure I’m at least available to as many people as possible.”