NEWARK, NJ — Essex County dedicated the Essex County Sheriff’s Patrol Building in Newark as the “Essex County Kevin J. Ryan Sheriff’s Headquarters” in honor of the late Sheriff’s Chief Kevin J. Ryan. Ryan, who also served as a NJ State Assemblyman and School Board member with the Essex County Schools of Technology, died June 20.
“Dedicating the sheriff’s headquarters in Kevin’s honor will keep his legacy of public service alive. He was a consummate law enforcement professional who enjoyed working for the sheriff’s office and loved Essex County and its residents,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Kevin, who was recognized as a public safety expert throughout the state, had a 30-year career in law enforcement. As the go-to person in times of emergency and crisis, he was always one of the first people to be on the scene and was always ready to lend a helping hand.”
“This is a tremendous honor for Kevin and our family, and it’s a testament to the type of person Kevin was,” Gerald Ryan, Kevin Ryan’s brother, said. “He always wanted to be a police officer. Kevin had a heart of gold. He thrived at helping people and he excelled at it from an early age.”
Local leaders reminisced about Ryan and called the building dedication a fitting tribute.
“Kevin was one of the closest people to me. He was a true cop and he loved what he did. Having his name on this building is a way to keep our friend in our memories,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.
“The fact that Kevin served in the NJ Assembly is sometimes overlooked, but he loved having that title and he gracefully bowed out because he was a team player,” NJ State Sen. and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.
“Kevin had a very large extended family and it included most of the people he met. To name this facility in his honor is fitting because his brothers and sisters were members of the Sheriff’s Department,” Newark Councilman Anibal Ramos said.
“Kevin was very proud to be a sheriff’s officer and he took his job very seriously. He was solid, sincere, loyal and had a tremendously large heart. He is greatly missed,” Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said.
“Kevin was a good person who always went out of his way to help me. I know his memory will inspire future generations of sheriff’s officers,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said. “Kevin cared deeply about all ends of Essex County. He loved Essex County and serving its residents,” Freeholder Rufus Johnson said. “Kevin was a gentleman with a kind heart,” Freeholder Lebby Jones said.
“My message is to his nieces and nephews and young people: Kevin left a pathway to hope and prosperity that is steeped in the epitome of public service. His name on the building signifies his sacrifice and perseverance,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones said.
A plaque recognizing Ryan was unveiled in the main hallway. The plaque begins with lyrics from “Most People are Good,” by country singer Luke Bryan, which was a favorite song of Ryan’s: “I believe them streets of gold are worth the work … I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks; I believe most people are good.” It continues: “Serving the public was second nature for Kevin Ryan. At the young age of 15, he volunteered as an aide for Senate President Carmen Orechio, and it was there that his abilities as a troubleshooter and problem solver were discovered. These talents were the hallmark of his career as an Assemblyman, member of the Trustee Board of the Essex County Schools of Technology and, as most people knew him, as a proud member of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. Kevin was an integral member of Essex’s law enforcement team. Responsible for Field Operations, he was a ‘boots on the ground leader,’ often the first to arrive on the scene of an emergency or natural disaster. He also was relied upon to organize protection details for Presidents, heads of state and the Newark Archbishop, and represented Essex in many law enforcement task forces. Kevin was always ready to help — no matter what the situation or time of day. He was a tireless worker and his love of Essex County was profound.”
Ryan began his career in law enforcement with the Nutley Police Department, where he served for four years before transferring to the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. He worked his way up through the ranks becoming an undersheriff and then a chief, and worked in virtually every area of the department. His most recent responsibilities included supervising the Field Operations Division, which includes the Patrol Division, the Bureau of Narcotics, the Bomb Squad, the K-9 Unit and the Office of Emergency Management; and the Fleet Management Unit, which includes all marked and unmarked sheriff’s vehicles, and a wide variety of specialized vehicles and equipment utilized for patrol, undercover surveillance, emergency management and homeland security operations.
Frequently he was assigned to represent the Sheriff’s Office on a multitude of task forces with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Federal and New Jersey Departments of Homeland Security; the New Jersey State Police; and the municipal police departments of Essex County. Ryan also supervised the Dignitary Protection Detail, which provided security for Pope John Paul II; Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama; numerous heads of state; governors; senators; and other visiting dignitaries. He also served as special assistant to Cardinal Joseph Tobin — and the cardinal’s predecessors — supervising and securing his eminence’s personal safety as well as congregants who attend Mass and other functions at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.
He began his career in public service at the age of 15, working as a voluntary aide to NJ Senate President Carmen Orechio, eventually being promoted to a senior staff position. He later served as a NJ assemblyman from 2010 to 2011 and as a school board member with the Essex County Schools of Technology since 2006. Throughout his career, he received numerous awards and recognition, including being bestowed the honor of Knight of the Equestrian Order by Pope Francis I on Nov. 16, 2016.
Members of the Sheriff’s Office have memorialized Ryan by naming his parking space outside of the Essex County Emergency Management Office in West Orange.
Photos Courtesy of Glen Frieson