He has served for almost 50 years in a big city and around the world – but feels very proud about what his officers and staff have been able to do at a smaller scale.
“I’m going to remember all the things that our department, from the 911 center down to the animal control officers or the numerous auxiliary volunteers have done to help in the services to our community here in Apache Junction,” said retiring Police Chief Thomas E. Kelly. “It was called ‘Community Policing’ back in the day. It was a way for residents to connect with the police to keep everyone safe as a partnership working together. That’s always been our No. 1 priority.”
Chief Kelly is completing almost nine years as police chief in Apache Junction, 15 years overall with the department, after more than three decades in local and federal law enforcement in his native Chicago and across the nation.
That career includes distinguished service with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). That experience led to stints around the world and numerous honors. But the personal touch is what stays with the chief after all these years and faraway places.
“This is about our officers and the residents,” Kelly said. “When we see the response from our community to our officers for what they do day-in and day-out is what I feel proud about, what will stay with me after I put the badge away.”
Kelly cites programs with the 55-and-over communities in Apache Junction that connected the department with the residents in its care. Kelly noted that officers developed a relationship with parks like Meridian Manor, a large subdivision on the southwestern edge of the city. The community began and has grown an annual toy drive for the department with officers giving out those donations to those children in need. Rancho Mirage Community has regularly continued to support our law enforcement personnel in a variety of ways as does our VFW and American Legion Posts. Another large development, nationally acknowledged Dolce Vita, has regularly played host to the department’s annual awards banquet and ranks among the safest areas to live in. It is about those partnerships (to name but a few) and the collaborations with all of the groups of people within our community that makes community policing work.
Development of the bicycle cop patrol, neighborhood watch program, presence at community gatherings and many other outreach programs have all led to the department having tremendous support in Apache Junction – much of it under Chief Kelly’s watch.
Kelly joined the city of Apache Junction police department in 2007 as captain of the criminal investigations division. In 2012, he was promoted to Deputy Chief, overseeing all operations within the department. He became acting chief in March 2013 and was named permanent chief that September. He retires on Friday, Jan. 21. Michael Pooley, a former assistant chief in the Tempe Police Department, takes over after Kelly leaves.
In 2012, Chief Kelly was selected by the FBI to participate in its national fellowship program, being assigned to the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and serving as the program’s national advisory board chair for several years. He will leave that post soon, but has hopes that Apache Junction will continue to play an active role in this national and global program.
Chief Kelly’s service in Apache Junction followed a long career in federal service and with local law enforcement beginning in Chicago in 1972. In 1984, he was accepted into the DEA, working in various capacities and offices around the world, including Honolulu, Quantico, Virginia, Los Angeles, Seattle, the Bahamas, Turkey and Vancouver, Canada. He retired from the DEA in 2006 within the Chicago Field Division as the agent in charge of the Minneapolis District Office.
In Chicago, with the DEA and in Apache Junction, Chief Kelly was an active participant in various training venues. He served as an advocate for the Pinal County Domestic Violence Coalition and helped coordinate the formal development of Apache Junction’s first sexual assault response team.
Chief Kelly holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal/social justice with a minor in history from Lewis University in suburban Chicago and has attended numerous professional leadership courses throughout his career. He has held teaching/instructor positions with various institutions throughout the United States and has travelled internationally to teach law enforcement partners in Hong Kong; Laos and Turkey.
Chief Kelly has also served in leadership positions for the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, including service as president in 2019. That year he was also appointed to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which oversees the maintenance of integrity, competence and professionalism for peace officers and correctional officers in Arizona.
Chief Kelly was always an active member of the East Valley Police Chiefs Association, the Pinal County Law Enforcement Association and has served as a representative to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Board and the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Human Trafficking Section.