It isn’t often a slam dunk when the Kearny Police Department’s valor committee gets together to choose a Police Officer of the Year. But for the year 2023, it was. In fact, one of the nominators says he’s never before seen such overwhelming support for one officer.

That officer is Jose Perez-Fonseca, whose intuition last year led him to pull over a suspicious vehicle in South Kearny. That pullover ultimately led investigators in locating the remains of a former Jersey City teacher Luz Hernandez, who had been murdered mere days earlier, and who had until then been missing.

And that wasn’t the only major crime Perez-Fonseca had a hand in solving, either.

Last summer, when a man was shot on Quincy Avenue, he had a direct impact on that case, as well.

The Observer recently conducted a Q&A with him — so we present you the 2023 Police Officer of the Year in his own words.


The Observer (TO): Tell me about you a little. Where did you grow up? Go to high school?

Jose Perez-Fonseca (JP): I was born and raised in Newark. I attended Seton Hall Preparatory School and graduated in 2006.


TO: When did you decide you wanted to be a police officer? Expand on that if you could.

JP: Law enforcement runs in the family. My father is a former Newark Police Officer. My cousin, Det. Cesar Negron, is currently assigned to the Detective Bureau with the Kearny Police Department. I also have cousins and uncles in law enforcement at both the local and federal level. I guess you can say it was an easy choice when the law enforcement entrance exam came out.


TO: When did you join the Kearny PD?

JP: I have been with the Kearny Police Department since 2015, having graduated from the Bergen County Police Academy.


TO: Sgt. Neil Nelson reminded me of a case where you pulled over a vehicle in South Kearny that led to the body of deceased former Jersey City teacher Luz Hernandez. Can you tell me that story about how it all went down — and your intuition that night? Some officers might not have even bothered with something at that hour — but you did and it had epic results.

JP: Unfortunately, since it is an open case, I cannot provide any further details that haven’t been released by the Kearny Police Department or the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. I am glad I was at the right place at the right time.

I am also grateful for my back up that night, Officer Bryan San Martin and Officer Anthony Oliveira. It goes to show how we have each other’s backs. I remember seeing a brown bag full of food Bryan had just purchased on his passenger seat that night. He stopped doing what he was doing to back me up.

Anthony came from uptown to South Kearny to back me up, possibly having a sense that something was not right. Again, it just goes to show that we have each other’s backs. I don’t think it’s a night I will ever forget. I would also just like to add that although our involvement was small in this case, I am extremely grateful that it led to some sort of closure for a family.


TO: This is not the best of times to be a police officer — unfortunately — and yet you go about your job daily and do it so well. How are you able to do it in a world where there is so much negativity about the police, etc.

JP: There is definitely a different sentiment toward law enforcement. Even in the short time since I have been a police officer, there has been a lot of negativity toward the profession. I think the key is to just go to work and focus on doing your job to the best of your ability and treating everyone with respect. It comes down to doing the right thing, no matter the situation.


TO: What else should we know about Jose? You mentioned you’re married yes and have kids?

JP: I have been married to my wife, Nadia, for seven years now and we have two great boys, Nathaniel, 7, and Logan, 6.


TO: Lastly — is there or was there a cop or two who have had a great influence on you?

JP: The list would be too long. I don’t think I can only name one or two. Over the years, I have learned a lot from all my supervisors and fellow officers. I work and have worked with a great group of men and women. I continue to learn from them every day. I don’t think I would trade any of the supervising officers I have had over the years.

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Editor & Broadcaster at 

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.