Jim Chelel may clock more time for golf outside his new job as a security administrator for Barnabas Health. After all, with fewer 2 a.m. calls, he’ll be better rested in his personal time.
“That never bothered me,” said South Orange’s long-time chief of police. “I sort of enjoyed those calls because there was never a situation which I felt the officers could not handle. I don’t think we were ever overwhelmed.”
After 31 years with the South Orange Police Department, the last 10 as chief, Chelel is taking a new challenge in corporate security. “I’m sad about leaving but excited to move on to another career.”
He leaves with pride in a record that includes five consecutive years of reduced “part one crimes,” the most serious offenses, like murder, rape and robbery.
And he takes with him memories of “many great people — residents, business owners, volunteers” — and a cache of war stories like a carjacking at Pathmark and a robbery-turned-homicide on Scotland Avenue. Those were two incidents he handled in his long stint as a detective before climbing the department’s ranks.
Chelel was the department’s last civilian police director (2003-2005) before the job was phased out in departments across the state. For 18 years, there was no police chief in South Orange until Chelel was laterally moved from director to chief.
He officially retired on Jan. 1 and ever since, Capt. Kyle Kroll has been serving as acting chief.
The police department currently has 49 officers, 22 crossing guards and 7 civilian employees. “They’re all outstanding men and women,” says Chelel. “Everybody should meet them when they’re not handling difficult circumstances.”
Chelel, his wife and their two daughter reside in Kinnelon, but, “My heart will always be in South Orange,” he says. “I was fortunate to grow up here and it has tremendous people, top to bottom.”