(This is the first in a large series of profile stories planned for 2023 to introduce the Chelsea community to the folks who keep it humming each day. We want you to learn more about Chelsea as a community — as told through the eyes, ears and voices of many different people.)
By Lisa Allmendinger
For his first six years with the Chelsea Police Department, unless you needed police assistance late at night, you may not have met Sgt. Rich Kinsey.
He began working the midnight shift in March 2010, and in years past, you might have heard him on Christmas Eve ringing a sleigh bell in your neighborhood.
For the last six years, however, he’s worked days, and with the departure of Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth last year, Kinsey agreed to become the interim chief. In this capacity, he also began introducing members of the Chelsea PD to the City Council during regular meetings so more people could put names to faces.
Kinsey distinctly remembers his first day on the job in Chelsea. “It had been so long since I’d driven a squad car, all the switches were so different that I had to be taught how to turn on the lights and siren.”
In addition, he learned that CPD officers “need to keep their left hand free because everybody waved at the police. This was amazing to me, because rarely did citizens wave at the police in Ann Arbor.”
Kinsey retired from AAPD in 2009 after almost 27 years, 20 of them in the detective division. He and 21 other officers were made a very attractive offer that they just could not refuse. However, he said, he “failed” in his retirement efforts.
So, he went back to work in policing – this time for Crime Stoppers as a Washtenaw County Police liaison – before being recruited by Toth to serve and protect in Chelsea.
“I found Chelsea a wonderful place to police. The CPD is genuinely liked by the citizens, and we like the citizens just as much,” he said, adding, “There is a lot of support for the CPD.”
Although many men and women decide on a career in public safety because they have a family member involved in a branch of public service, this wasn’t the case with Kinsey. He said his dad was a beer truck driver and then a sales manager at a local beer distributor and his mom was a medical technician before becoming a full-time mom.
In fact, he was on a path to become a pharmacist – like one of his sisters – attending the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy. But enter one of his neighbors at North Lake who was an Ann Arbor Police captain. He counseled him to follow his heart – so Kinsey transferred to Michigan State University and got a degree in Criminal Justice. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University School of Police Staff and Command and also has a master’s degree in Information Technology.
What you also might not know about Kinsey is he wrote a very popular column for The Ann Arbor News for five years – educating readers about crime and policing from the unique perspective of someone who has lived it.
“I am a very lucky man because I had a passion for my profession, and it never felt like work. I like to brag that I never really worked a day in my life, but I will tell you there have been some very hard days and nights.”
When asked about his most memorable day on the job, he recalled the day in 2016 that he and partner Officer Dori Blackford assisted the Michigan State Police on a home invasion-armed robbery call with shots fired on Lingane Road in Sylvan Township.
“It was during an absolutely torrential downpour” but he and Blackford were able to arrest two getaway car drivers and disable the cars before the Michigan State Police arrived on the scene.
“The other two bandits were arrested later by MSP, after the two suspects spent a really wet, hot, buggy night in the woods of Waterloo,” he said.
It rained so hard that night that “my spotlight burned out and Dori and I were soaked to our skivvies, because you can’t be very tactical in full raincoats. MSP asked us to impound the getaway cars. And, as Officer Blackford got out of the car to get some information from the cars, I called back to her, “Hey, hey don’t you want your raincoat?
“I’ll never forget the look she shot me,” he said, “Then the smile and the laugh we had later about that. I love those humorous little moments in police work, and not a day has gone by that I have not had some huge belly laughs during my shift. Cops see the worst sometimes, and to keep their relative sanity, they develop really keen senses of humor.”
When not on the job, Kinsey enjoys time with his wife of 35 years, Toni, and two rescued dogs Remington and Lorena. They enjoy traveling up north and to the UP to visit their kids and grandkids. Son Pete is a first mate on the 1,000 foot American Integrity, and son Rick is a financial planner.
Kinsey also enjoys canoeing and kayaking on the AuSable and Huron rivers or from the shores of Lake Michigan. Closer to home, he can also sometimes be seen floating on a pontoon boat on North Lake, or biking the border-to-border trail, taking photos or reading a good book.
Joseph Wambaugh is one of his favorite authors and to paraphrase Wambaugh, Kinsey said: “For the past 40 years I’ve had the best seat in the house for the Greatest Show on Earth – people being human. And believe me, people can get themselves into some incredible predicaments and hopefully, I’ve been able to help them or in some tragic cases at least relieve some of the pain of their loved ones.”
He wants people to know that the Chelsea PD is “just trying to maintain public peace, respect everyone’s rights, no matter their politics, religion or orientation and keep people safe. When you call us, there is a problem.
“Usually when we arrive on a scene there is a dispute – we listen to both sides, assess what is going on, what the legal parameters are, and make a decision based on our experience, training and the circumstances as we know them at the time.”
Unfortunately, he said, “when we leave a scene, chances are one of the parties involved will not be happy with our decision. This is the unfortunate outcome in dispute resolution.”
For Kinsey, helping people and keeping them safe drove him to spend his career in police work.
“Sometimes you really can make a difference in a person’s life. It’s also that look in peoples’ eyes – the Thank God You’re Here Look – when you arrive on a scene when they are terrified, and you are there to help.”
And for 41 years, Kinsey has helped thousands of people.
He plans to retire from police work (for real this time) in August.