Brentwood Police Officer David Kelley joined the department a year ago, but he is no stranger to law enforcement or dealing with stressful situations.
It was his first career in the U.S. Navy that set the groundwork for Kelley’s desire to enter public service. He was a chief warrant officer who enlisted in the Navy in 1995 and qualified for the challenges of being a part of the Naval Special Operations Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC), a command team trained for operations integrated with other U.S. Special Operations forces on and around rivers and coastal areas throughout the world.
Although he was stationed in San Diego, Kelley had four ship deployments to the Western Pacific and eight special warfare combat deployments to areas in the Philippines, Africa, South America and the Middle East.
In his spare time, Kelley earned a master’s degree in health science. When he retired from the Navy in March 2015 after 21 years, he didn’t know what he wanted to do, however, he knew a desk job didn’t sound inviting. Service was in his blood.
He chose law enforcement, which is much like the military. Training in the military and training for law enforcement both involved preparing to handle every situation that comes along, he said.
“My wife gave me five states to choose from,” Kelley said. “I was hired by the Mesa [Arizona] Police Department — Arizona was one of the states.”
Mesa, a city located within the Phoenix metro area with a population of almost 440,000, has an inner-city atmosphere. There was no time for community policing, to engage with the people and get to know the area. Each day was filled with a series of thefts, shootings, drug deals and domestic violence.
During his four years as a police officer in Mesa, Kelley made more than 450 arrests, primarily drug-related and domestic violence.
“We were always reacting,” he said.
In his last year in Mesa, Kelley was assigned to the bicycle unit, which made chasing down and catching law breakers easier. He explained his ploy was to sit at a distance and watch drugs deals being made, then swoop in on his bike.
“On a bike, you can interdict faster,” he said. “Chances of the criminal getting away was almost impossible.”
On a bike, Kelley caught 90% of the criminals he went after, but he was always dealing with the same 1% of the population, and that became tedious.
“I arrested one female six times in a month,” he said. “All drug arrests. It was her way of life. I always thought maybe this would be the time that’ll change her life, but it never was. I was not happy [with the job].”
A change was needed. It came when his best friend, a 25-year officer in Brentwood, suggested he apply. Kelley applied and was hired, and his wife, a nurse, found a job at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“I learned so much in Mesa, and I can apply a lot of that to law enforcement here,” he said.
As a member of the Brentwood Police Department, Kelley enjoys the change of pace, the people and the time to engage Brentwood residents on the street, in a coffee shop, at the grocery store or a gas station. He likes gaining the community’s trust and working with the community to find solutions to issues and actually investigate incidents when they happen, while evidence and memories are fresh.
“Here, we get the time to invest in the incidents and pull together solid evidence for the detectives,” Kelley said.
Although COVID-19 changed the way people interact with each other and police interact with residents, interaction is still taking place. He’s wearing gloves more often and uses the prescribed social distancing when possible, but admits he’s more cognizant of wind direction when talking outdoors.
“I understand how pandemics work,” he said. “I’m not concerned.”
But he is careful.