Some people dream their whole lives about becoming police detectives. In today’s world, it’s a pretty common prospect. Crime dramas fill the airwaves with countless dramatized portrayals of detective work. Slick haired curious detectives ooze an aura of charisma as they intuit their way through crime after crime. There’s no doubt, it is cool to be a detective.
Cool as it might be, Jimmy Kelly had no aspirations to be a crime solver back in 1983. He was an avid golfer and pizza delivery driver minding his own business when he received a phone call from then Vero Beach, Florida Police Chief Sam McCall.
McCall reached out to Kelly on the recommendation of Kelly’s golfing buddy Frank Alber, a retired police officer. McCall was experiencing a shortage at the time and wanted to shore up the police force with good officers. Specifically, he was looking for trustworthy people who were not necessarily interested in law enforcement but were interested in the welfare of Vero Beach.
Alber believed Kelly would be a perfect fit for the department, and he was called in for an interview.
“He called Vero Beach paradise, and he wanted my help in protecting it,” said Kelly when asked about that first call. Protect it he did. Kelly retired this year after 30 years of service to the department. He started out as an emergency dispatcher. He spent two years there, and Kelly credits that time as being some of the most valuable to his career. According to Kelly, working as a dispatcher teaches you the ins and outs of the police department and is the heartbeat of the agency.
After that, he spent 8 years on patrol before being promoted to detective in 1994. He served as a detective for 20 years before retiring, and in that time he learned much about what it means to be a good officer. In respect to the charismatic tv detective, Kelly says that when he started he believed curiosity was the most important part of being a detective.
However, the job has taught him otherwise. In the fast paced world of detective work, curiosity and intuition won’t finish the job. “Fortitude. Dedication. Desire.” says Kelly, are what it takes to truly finish a case. He may be retiring, but Kelly is not done working. He intends to write a memoir about his time on the force, and he will be leaving the footwork to the men and women of the Vero Police who love the city of Vero Beach as much as he does.