Captain Jerry East is officially retired. Jerry had served The Hood County Sheriffs Office since 1989. His retirement marks the end of an era in law enforcement. Jerry was what is often called "old school." His knowledge of people in the county gave him the ability to defuse tense situations in a way no one else could. He faced precarious encounters in a way that resembled life in the old west. Jerry's actions with criminals will be the making of a legend to be passed on to future generations of law enforcement officers.
As the chaplain, I saw another side to Jerry. I saw him give his coat to a drowning victims daughter one blistering cold night as he and others searched for the body of that ladies father. I saw him express compassion to the wife of a man that deputies were forced to shoot and kill one night. He was always kind to families that had a loved one take their own life. I have quite a storehouse of memories of this kind.
Today at his retirement reception I heard a new story told by DPS Trooper Dub Gillum. Several years ago Dub was shot in the face during a traffic stop. Dubs eyesight was permanently affected. Years after that event Dub and Jerry went to see a fellow officer who was dealing with a terminal illness. Dub noticed that Jerry was wearing a watch with huge numbers on the face of it. Dub was excited to see a watch that he could read easily even with a vision impairment. Jerry proceeded to take the watch off and give it to Dub right there on the spot. Jerry is just the kind of guy to give you the watch off his own wrist.
Deputies starting their career this year will do so with all kinds of sophisticated technology. The person that Jerry could get to comply with his old west charm may get pepper sprayed or shot with a taser by this younger generation of officers. Professionally trained negotiators and tactical officers will deal with high risk offenders differently than Jerry did in 1989. It is a changing world.
But the need for a man that will give you his coat in the middle of January or the watch off his own wrist will never go away. Compassion is a trait that technology will never replace.
Jerry has left an example in that area for the rest of us to follow. I will pack an extra coat in my truck this winter just in case, because the man that would give you the coat off his own back is officially retired.