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Former Cleveland police Chief Edward Kovacic remembered as no-nonsense cop who cared deeply for fellow officers

October 1, 2018

Former Cleveland police Chief Edward Kovacic remembered as no-nonsense cop who cared deeply for fellow officers

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Former Cleveland police Chief Edward P. Kovacic earned a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense cop during a career that lasted more than four decades.

He’s also remembered for the guidance he offered to his fellow officers and the pride he took in wearing his uniform.

Kovacic, who died Sunday at the age of 88, served as the head of the Cleveland police department from 1990 to 1993. He came up through the ranks as a patrolman and a detective, earning him the respect of his officers, said Martin L. Flask, another former Cleveland police chief who currently serves as an executive assistant for special projects to Mayor Frank Jackson.

“He was a tough, no-nonsense chief of police who wore his uniform with pride,” said Flask, who served as Kovacic’s executive assistant from 1990 to 1992. “And he expected others to do that as well.”

Kovacic suffered a stroke Saturday afternoon and was rushed to a hospital, where he died Sunday.

Flask, who was the city’s police chief from 1999 to 2001, said Kovacic had a “style and personality that all of us could warm up to very easily.”

But Flask remembers Kovacic most fondly for the guidance he offered to his colleagues.

“He told me that if you make a mistake, you should admit it, fix it, accept the responsibilities and move forward,” Flask said. “That stuck with me throughout my entire career.”

Others who worked under Kovacic have similar memories.

“One of the best chiefs that I have served under,” said Brian Betley, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police union that represents police supervisors. “Respected by everyone.”

Jackson also offered condolences to Kovacic’s friends and family in a statement released Monday.

“Chief Kovacic was a policemen’s policeman with a long and distinguished career with the Division of Police,” Jackson said in the statement. “He rose through the ranks to become the Chief of Police here in Cleveland and he will be missed by all who knew him.”

Kovacic grew up in Cleveland in the neighborhood by East 96th Street and St. Clair Avenue. He graduated from Cathedral Latin High School and later joined the Army.

He was sworn in as a Cleveland police officer in 1959 and spent time as a patrolman and detective. He also served in the Decoy Squad and Bomb Unit.

He investigated organized crime, and helped find Danny Green’s killers after the notorious mobster was killed by a car bomb.

″[Officers] respected him because he had been there and done it,” Flask said. “He’d done it all.”

Kovacic left the police department in 1985 to become chief of detectives for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office. He returned in 1990, after former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White hired him as chief.

He took over at a period of turmoil, after the Arthur Feckner scandal that led to drug charges against five detectives, according to The Plain Dealer. All five were eventually acquitted.

He sought to restore the police department’s reputation by instituting an awards ceremony to honor the good deeds of officers and citizens. He also helped raise money for a memorial to honor cops killed in the line of duty.

“He cared. He cared about people, and he cared about police officers,” Flask said. He was an individual who was really focused on the welfare of the Cleveland Division of Police.”

The Cleveland Police Foundation honored Kovacic with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Kovacic’s family has not yet announced funeral arrangements.

Cleveland.com reporter Adam Ferrise contributed to this story.

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