By Henry M. Holden
After nearly 31 years of service, Essex Fells Chief of Police Vincent Kulik, retired on Feb. 1.
“I really didn’t want to retire but the way the benefits are set up in the pension, it made sense financially for me to retire,” said Kulik of Livingston.
Kulik is also a 43-year member of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department.
“I volunteered when I was 18, and I don’t intend to ever give this up.”
After graduating from Livingston High School in 1975 and Union County Technical Institute in 1977, Kulik worked as a technician for the RCA Service Company, in New York City.
He began his law enforcement career in January 1987, and graduated from the Essex County Police Academy in May 1987. The Essex Fells Police Department recruited him as a patrolman in 1988. Kulik was promoted to Chief of Police in Oct. 2009.
“I had some really unforgettable calls during my term,” he said. One is indelibly etched in his memory
In 1996, despite feeling like he was coming down with the flu he debated whether to go home sick.
“It was 3 a.m., and I felt that if I went home I’d only wake my family so I decided to tough it out. I felt it was my duty as a police officer to stick out the night.
“I was sitting in my patrol car and I smelled the distinct odor of oily smoke coming from a nearby building.” His firefighter skills came in handy that night and he saved a family from a potentially tragic situation.
With the help from his sergeant, the two went house-to-house looking for the source. They discovered that a home on Roseland Ave. was full of smoke, and did not have smoke detectors.
“This was before smoke detectors were widely used,” he said. But Kulik’s experience as a firefighter helped the officers get the family to safety.
“It was a defective oil burner, and I think that had I not awakened them, it could have had a real tragic ending,” said Kulik. “That was probably the most rewarding thing I ever did.”
One of his many accomplishments was his reorganizing efforts.
“I had to reorganized my police department,” he said. “There was a time when we were using a lot of overtime, and it was costing the borough a lot of money. I change the scheduling so we could do a lot of things more cost efficiently. This way we could remain a small police department. If we continued the way we were going, we might not be in business today. As a small-town police department, the service we provide is second to none. It would be hard to duplicate that with a larger police department.”
Bringing motorcyles back was also noteworthy during Kulik’s time.
As chief, Kulik brought the motorcycle unit back.
“We had motorcycles back in 1916, before we had cars,” he said. “The first patrol car arrived in 1921. In 2011 we brought motorcycles back.
“They have made a difference. First, they’re more economical to run. The cost of gasoline we put into a motorcycle is considerably less than we put into a full-size vehicle. Motorcycles also patrol differently than four-wheel vehicles. They’re more maneuverable and they are out in the open. The officer can dismount and talk with the public. It’s good public relations vehicle.
“There are just over a dozen police officers in Essex Fells, so you tend to be more noticeable. You have to wear a lot of hats,” said Kulik. “I enjoy knowing the people. I feel personally responsible for them and it’s a very good feeling working in a small town.”
Two weeks after his retirement, Kulik completed his master’s in administrative science, at Fairleigh Dickinson. He is now a substitute teacher in the Livingston Public Schools system.
“I had the education behind me so is it just a question of going through the paperwork.”
During his law enforcement career, Kulik has received many awards and commendations including Meritorious, Life-Saving, Criminal Apprehension, Exceptional and Unit Citations.
He is the immediate past President of the Association of Chiefs of Police of Essex County, serving as president during 2015 and 2016. Kulik is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
In addition to being a current member of the Livingston Fire Department, Kulik is also a member of the Livingston Benevolent Paternal Order of Elks; the New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association; Essex County Emerald Society; and the Knights of Columbus of Livingston.
Kulik and his wife, Judy, have been married for 34 years. They have a daughter, Lianne, 27, a teacher of history at Long Branch High School; and a son Michael, 23, a NJ State Trooper.