PAWTUCKET — Praise, proclamations, a retirement badge and a special “checkerboard” cake to call his own marked Friday's send-off party for outgoing Police Chief George L. Kelley III.
Kelley, who has been the city's police chief since 1999, is retiring after 35 years of service with the Pawtucket Police Department. He was the guest of honor at an afternoon ceremony at the Municipal Court chambers that was attended by a large gathering of city officials, past and present members of the Pawtucket Police Department, friends and family.
Mayor James E. Doyle, who named Kelley chief on Feb. 14, 1999, called it a “bittersweet day” on which he was saying goodbye to someone who is a friend as well as a city servant, and who gave “thirty-five years of distinguished service” to his hometown. “It is perhaps the finest appointment that I ever made,” he stated.
Doyle presented Kelley with a proclamation from the city stating that through his leadership as police chief, he has made Pawtucket “a better, safer place to be.”
Senator John McBurney also presented Kelley with a proclamation, telling him, “On behalf of the 30,000 people I've represented for the last 36 years in the Senate, I want to thank you for a job well done.”
Police Sgt. Mark Boisclair, president of the Pawtucket Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4, presented Kelley with a retirement badge. He also praised Kelley for his good working relationship with the union and his support. “He always had his door open for us. We didn't always agree, but he always listened to our side,” said Boisclair.
Kelley took to the podium to recognize the many friends, colleagues, and former police chiefs who turned out to wish him well in his retirement. Among those present were North Providence Police Chief John J. Whiting, a former major in Pawtucket, Cumberland Police Chief John Desmarais, Central Falls Police Chief Joseph Moran, Johnston Police Chief Richard Tamburini, and several retired chiefs including Jamie Hainsworth of Glocester, Peter Brousseau of West Warwick and Jack Coyle of North Attleboro, who Kelley referred to as his “mentor.”
In a comment that drew laughter, Kelley also joking asked the now retired Col. Steven Pare, formerly head of the Rhode Island State Police, “Will I look as good as you?”
The outgoing chief particularly singled out his family, mother Florida, wife Susan, son Patrick and daughter Jennifer Hopp and her husband Mark, along with his 7-week-old granddaughter, Olivia. He noted the many sacrifices his family had made over the years because of his chosen career, including working on numerous holidays and getting phone calls in the middle of the night. “I remember working a murder on my son's birthday in 1988,” Kelley recalled. “But I never, ever had a complaint from the family. They knew it was part of the job.”
Kelley thanked Doyle and the members of the City Council for their support over the years, and acknowledged the presence of mayor-elect Donald Grebien and several councilors who were in attendance. “It was a great run. Thanks for letting me do my job,” he stated.
Kelley said he knows the department “is in good hands” with incoming chief, Major Paul King, who will be sworn-in on Monday.
Growing emotional, Kelley concluded by saying that even in his retirement, “I'll always be thinking of the Pawtucket Police Department. I'll cheer when things are going good and I'll feel it when things are going bad.”