'Hard-nosed' policeman reaches out on Sundays

November 10, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

If you're a criminal, drug addict, or prostitute in Annapolis, George Kelley is determined to get you one way or another.

In the evenings, Officer Kelley walks a beat in Eastport. On Sundays, the Rev. Kelley preaches in the Stanton Community Center, in the city's troubled 4th Ward.

But whether he's wearing a uniform or a robe, the goal is the same: to reach out to the people on the street.

Mr. Kelley, 35, was born and reared in Brooklyn, N.Y. He says he became a police officer 11 years ago because he needed a job. He worked seven years on the New York City police force before quitting almost four years ago to look for a better place to raise his family. Someone, he doesn't remember who, told him about Annapolis.

He worked as a detective in the crime-ridden neighborhood at West Washington and Clay streets, learning the names of the dope dealers and prostitutes. He knew who was in trouble and who was about to be. For the past year and a half, he has been a member of the community policing squad assigned to Eastport, patrolling the Robinwood, Barry's Garden, Harbor House, and Eastport Terrace housing projects.

Throughout his police career, the burly New Yorker has always had another calling -- to preach. His father was a minister and set an early example. "I used to try to mimic him in the basement of our house," Mr. Kelley said. "I loved to go to church and it just stayed with me."

He was ordained in 1983 by his non-denominational church in New York.

Over the years he preached off and on. He took his ministry a step further a couple weeks ago when he held a three-day revival at the Stanton Community Center. The interest was so great, he decided to launch Sunday services at the community )) center.

While almost all of the 30 people who attended the first service on Sunday were Mr. Kelley's friends or relatives, he said he hopes to reach the people on the street who may not feel welcome in another church.

"The people need to know that whether they're drug dealers or drug addicts or prostitutes that someone loves them," Mr. Kelley said.

His compassion doesn't interfere with his police work, he says. He may love those who go astray, but he nevertheless will kick down their door in a drug raid or throw offenders in jail.

"I'm considered a hard-nosed cop," Mr. Kelley said. "But I try to do preventive maintenance."

The Annapolis Police Department has no official comment on Mr. Kelley's pastoral work, but Mr. Kelley said that even if his superiors were opposed to his ministry, he wouldn't quit preaching.

"God comes before the Police Department."

Mr. Kelley says his dream is to found a drug treatment center, and he's excited by the opportunity to have his own Sunday services. He hopes someday to have his own church and congregation.

For now, he sees no conflict between his work as a policeman and his call to preach. He says that as a minister he is able to listen to people's troubles, and as a cop, he warns them not to let him catch them breaking the law.

"I tell them, 'If I catch you doing something wrong, I'll lock your butt up.' It's a unique ministry."

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