It was only a few weeks ago Kearny Police Officer Anthony Oliveira says he had one of the more intense incidents of his 2+-year career. He was on patrol at around 9 p.m., Feb. 10, 2021, when a radio call ordered all Kearny units to head to Walmart. There, a woman had been setting fire to clothing. Witnesses said they believed she had a knife on her.
Later, we’d learn she had earlier that day called a suicide-prevention hotline number, was reported as such to the Jersey City PD where she lives and she’d gone away from her home.
“It was intense,” Oliveira recalls of the call. “I was the first to get there. When I arrived I ran to the back of the store where she was. I kept a distance and asked her to put the knife down. I had to draw my service weapon.”
Oliveira says he wanted to let the woman, only 19, know help was available — she didn’t need to do anything harsh to herself or to anyone else at the super store.
“There were people not too far from her,” Oliveira says. “My training kicked in. I asked her for her name and she told me. I let her know she wasn’t alone. She was young, so I told her she had her whole life ahead of her. She asked me if my weapon was a taser or a gun. I told her it was a gun and that we don’t carry tasers, yet at least.”
Eventually, the woman put the knife down and he and fellow Officer Jose Perez-Fonseca handcuffed the woman who was taken to hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
“I was relieved — we were all relieved,” Oliveira says.
Through it all, the adrenaline pumped, but Oliveira remained calm. A situation that could have been dreadful ended peacefully, with no one hurt and just a few burnt clothing items. It is for scenarios like this one and numerous others throughout 2020 that Oliveira was chosen Cop of the Year by the Kearny Police Department’s Valor Committee, led by Det. John Fabula who is joined by former recipients of the same award.
(Last year, Officer Jonathan Dowie won the award and we were to profile him in March — and then COVID-19 hit — so we promise to profile him, too, in an upcoming edition of The Observer.)
Oliveira, a 2013 alumnus of Kearny High School and 2017 graduate of Rowan University, says his older brother, an NJ State Trooper, was the driving force behind his decision to become a cop.
“I wanted to follow and do as my older brother did,” he says.
Initially, the idea was to become a trooper, too. But, as luck would have it, having taken the Civil Service examination to become a cop in Jersey, Kearny offered him a position to go to the academy around the exact same time the NJ State Police sent him notice they wanted him too. Only thing was, that offer wasn’t guaranteed. The testing process wasn’t finished. Kearny’s offer was certain.
After deliberating, “I took the Kearny offer,” Oliveira says. “I’ve never regretted the decision. There are a lot of great people in this department. I made the best choice.”
So why have his first few years on the job been so successful? He says a lot of it is mind-driven.
“I trust but verify,” he says.
But he also says some of his superior officers have deeply shaped the kind of cop he is. He mentioned three in fact — Capts. Chuck Fergie, Paul Bershefski and Mike Ryan. If you know anything about the Kearny PD, you know those three captains have had fine police careers. So you’d be hard-pressed to find better mentors.
“They’ve all been great in their own ways,” he says.
Oliveira also says his parents, Tony and Maria, who still live in Kearny, were also tremendous influences on his career.
“My dad was 13 when he came to America from Portugal,” he says. “He didn’t speak a word of English. Now you’d never know English wasn’t his first language. And my mom did so much for us as we grew up. They are the hardest workers I know.”
Oliveira knows being a cop in today’s climate is no easy task. But he pulls it all together perfectly, and it gives a lot of insight as to why he’s been so successful in the short time he’s been an officer.
“If you do the right thing, work hard and go above and beyond, that’s the most important,” Oliveira says. “Not all of the good things we do gets mentioned. But by following the legal standards and doing it right, I am content.”
CHOSEN BY HIS PEERS
LAUDED BY THE CHIEF
Fabula, meanwhile, is the chairman of the Kearny Police Department’s Valor Committee.
In Oliveira’s case, Fabula says, the choice for Cop of the Year was easy and unanimous.
“Officer Oliveira was selected after receiving the most nominations for valor awards and has been awarded a number of Narcotics Interdiction awards for seizing distribution-weight narcotics along with currency seizures which are generally proceeds from narcotic sales,” Fabula says. “Oliveira will also be honored with a Life Saving Award along with other members of his tour for their work in providing lifesaving CPR to a person on Newark Turnpike in February of last year.
While reviewing submissions, one supervisor wrote of Officer Oliveira: ‘ … He is a true asset to this department and would be a great candidate for the Police Officer of the Year Award. He has had numerous jobs that he has seized large amounts of CDS, and this is just him being him. When told good job, he just shrugs it off as just him doing what he is supposed to do, but he goes above and beyond and deserves recognition for a job well done.'”
George King, the chief of the Kearny PD, says he was pleased with Oliveira’s selection.
“Anthony is a great pick for Cop of the Year,” King says. “He is a real asset to the department and the Town of Kearny. He comes to work and does his job without hesitation or complaint and serves with honor. He is a polite and respectful individual who is most deserving of this honor.”
And he’ll be a very tough act to follow, for sure.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.