During the mid-to late 1980s, the New Jersey Department of Civil Service designated both Jersey City and Newark as “Class A” cities. This distinction provided that the mayors of those respective cities “appoint the chief of police” who would then serve at the pleasure of the mayor. This departure from Civil Service procedures and protections is not a good process for appointing a police chief, as it provides an opportunity for a mayor to corrupt the position of police chief.
Robert Cowan was ultimately “appointed” as the chief of police by the Jersey City mayor and was the shortest tenured police chief in Jersey City at nine- and one-half months. His short tenure was not because of lack of competence, energy or accomplishments. During this short tenure, with the assistance of his stellar command staff which included, Deputy Chief Joe Delaney, Deputy Chief John Cory Short, Capt. Joe Ascolese, Lieutenants Kelly Chesler, Jay White, and Pat Macarthy, much was achieved and with many accomplishments.
According to Chief Cowan, his short tenure was three-fold:
• Cowan declined to permit the public safety director, Jim Shea, to run the day-to-day operations of the department which was not in his job description under Title 40
• Cowan refused to improperly deploy resources of the Jersey City Police Department to shut down major roadways as ordered by Mayor Steven Fulop.
• Cowan refused Fulop’s requests to commit several improper acts related to his office that would have been in furtherance of his failed ambitions to be governor of New Jersey.
After his demotion and being sent back to his civil service rank as deputy chief, Cowan told how Public Safety Director Jim Shea had him moved into an “office” that was actually a supervisor’s locker room. He was provided a very old computer in the locker room for his use, although he was assigned no real work, his guess is Fulop and Shea thought this was a proper way to treat a 35-year veteran officer and long-time resident of Jersey City. They did not get the best of Cowan, because the locker room he was assigned as an office, after having been demoted from the chief’s position, was in better condition than some of the police precincts he worked in over his career!
Robert Cowan was born in 1960 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Having grown up in the Greenville section on Seaview Avenue, Robert’s dad, the late Jersey City Police Department Captain James Cowan, raised four boys. His four sons all became Jersey City Police supervisors, Mark, Tom, Jim and Robert. Capt. James Cowan was the commander of the West District, the busiest precinct in New Jersey. Jim was the first of the Cowan sons to come onto the police department through a competitive testing process involving written, physical fitness, psychological and medical testing as well as a thorough background investigation. Cowan laughed when he heard members of the public or others insinuate that his dad was involved with getting the “Cowan Boys” hired at the department and then used his influence to get them promoted. Cowan followed his brother Jim to the police academy in 1979, with his brother Mark hired in 1985 and Tommy in 1987. Cowan and his brother Tom were both promoted to deputy chief through the civil service process. While his brother Mark was promoted to captain and Jimmy to sergeant. Very often they all studied together.
Chief Cowan retired in October 2014 and formed a private investigations firm shortly afterward. Cowan Investigations specializes in litigation consultation as well as divorce-related matters such as alimony/cohabitation investigations and child custody. Amazingly, Cowan Investigations has really taken off over the past year. Cowan and his wife, Liz, work day and night. Recently, Cowan had the good fortune to sign on his former colleague, retired Capt. Joe Ascolese, as the North Jersey operations manager of Cowan Investigations. Although he truly enjoyed his 35 years with the Jersey City Police Department, mostly in patrol, he says, “I am enjoying the pension check as well as running a successful business, most of the time dressed in jeans, sneakers and a sweatshirt.” He also enjoys his two boxers, Zeus and Hercules.
Valerie A. Stetz (Velazquez) retired on accidental disability from the Jersey City Police Dept. She was injured in a radio car accident responding to a robbery in progress call. Valerie is a member of the NJ Police Honor Legion. She is the radio host for the popular Internet show “BLUE World Uncensored” on DDV RADIO. She is also the Public Relations Manager for NJ Blue Now Magazine. Valerie is married, with a son and daughter.