Following in the footsteps of retired Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock would be a daunting task for most. Anthony Kelly accepts the challenge saying “Someone’s got to do it.” Kelly has been an assistant police chief since January of 2015. Until this week, he commanded the FPD’s uniformed patrol bureau, the largest division in the department. City Manager Doug Hewett named Kelly Interim Chief a week or so before Medlock stepped down. “I identified him as a true leader and he’s proven my decision was correct,” Medlock said.
Kelly graduated from Fayetteville State University while living at home on Amanda Circle with his mom and dad. His first love was the military, but he was afraid (and still is) of flying. He went to work part time at Food Lion, and then moved to Charlotte to join the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department. He graduated from the Basic Law Enforcement Training course in December of 1994, and the following spring decided to move back home. Kelly applied for a job with the Fayetteville Police Department. He’s 48 now and has been in law enforcement for 22 years. He says the last two years were a turning point for him and the more than 400 officers of the department.
“Chief Medlock allowed us to think big, and when we thought big, good things happened,” he said.
Medlock brought big-city experience and police training to Fayetteville from Charlotte where he served as a deputy chief. Kelly says officers began getting anti-bias training during those two years. Police officers in this city, he says, are constantly exposed to young black men in hopeless, negative situations. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” he said.
These days, he says, a police officer is one bad day away from having a bad career, which is why he reinforces to the men and women of the FPD that proper training is the key “to being good police.” One of the most important elements of Fayetteville Police training in dealing with street crime, he says, is what’s called “cover and concealment.” De-escalation of a potentially violent situation begins with the cop taking himself out of the equation. Instead of approaching a volatile situation, Fayetteville police officers are trained, when possible, to take cover and conceal themselves in such a way that they can speak with others involved while not getting involved themselves. It’s called situational policing.
Kelly told of police officers who responded to a 911 call a couple of weeks ago about a woman in her yard brandishing a shotgun. She apparently suffered from mental health issues. First officers on the scene concealed themselves where she couldn’t see them, but they were close enough to speak with her. A police sergeant noticed there was a lock installed in the shotgun trigger housing. He engaged her in conversation, and she told him about her grandchildren. The sergeant said he hoped to have grandkids one day and asked her the names of hers. With that, the woman dropped the weapon and began crying. “That situation could have gone horribly wrong had it not been for our training,” Kelly said.
Kelly comes from a middle class family, and credits his parents for the person he has become. He says he never got that warning from his mother and father that many African-American youngsters do about how to behave if stopped by the police.
“My mom and dad taught me how to act, period,” he said. “I can’t stand it when people tell me they were taught how to act during a traffic stop.”
Kelly reflected on an incident when he was a child that he’s never forgotten. He was in the fifth grade and got five Fs on his report card. At a parent/teacher conference his teacher told his mom of the bad grades, and that he seemed more interested in girls. “I looked at my mom and there was a tear coming down her cheek,” he said. “When we got home with my mom not saying one word, she grabbed a belt and whooped my behind.” Kelly said she grounded him for one year; he couldn’t leave the house for a year. His grades improved, he said. “I served nine months of that sentence when my dad asked mom to let me off.”
Kelly speaks of how fortunate he was to come from a two-parent household. He’s just as proud to have come up through the ranks of the Fayetteville Police Department and to have served with Harold Medlock.
“We’re setting the police standard in this state and perhaps the country for how to have relationships in the communities we serve,” said Kelly.