“The purpose is to try to shed some light on history.” -Jerry Blaine
Jerry Blaine doesn’t sit still very well. After he and his wife moved back to Grand Junction in 2003 to supposedly retire for good, it didn’t take long for Jerry to spark a new project to work on, one that now has him on a nationwide book tour and in a couple of weeks on televisions everywhere for a Discovery Channel program.
“We fantasized when we started this that this is what it would be,” says Jerry.
What “this” is is the overwhelming response to a book Jerry wrote detailing the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination. For the past 47 years, Jerry, a former Secret Service agent who worked under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, as well as the other agents working the Kennedy detail have remained silent on the issue; incredibly silent.
“We didn’t talk at all about this with each other…. After the assassination we didn’t have trauma counselors. Everyone was left to work it out on in their own way and we didn’t know the impact it would have on everybody.”
That changed in 2003. Jerry began reading and researching the assassination on the internet where he found one conspiracy theory after another.
“And I couldn’t believe what I was reading.”
That disbelief turned into inspiration, and Jerry’s book was born. A reunion eventually brought the 8 agents who were on the Kennedy detail at the time together again, with The Discovery Channel there to capture the moment.
Although Jerry has been a GJPD Victim Advocate, or VAP, for about a year now, I’ve found his interesting and historical past wasn’t all that well-known prior to the attention his book is garnering him. What’s probably even lesser known by those outside the police department is what he continues to do today to serve those in our community.
As VAPs, Jerry and his wife, Joyce, provide crisis intervention when officers request their presence at a critical incident. All of our VAPs are equipped to deal with trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse or death notification. While on scene they offer comfort to victims, assistance to the officers, and referrals to community resources for those who need them.
According to GJPD Victim Services Coordinator Mary Harmeling, “Jerry relishes his role as “driver” and enjoys observing Joyce as she interacts with the victims.”
While I was speaking with him I too noticed that he prefers to give his wife center stage when it comes to talking about how they continue to serve today. It’s pretty evident, though, together they make a great team, and they are a tremendous help to both the police department and those in our community.
Mary adds, “He has noted to me several times how valuable he believes our Victim Services unit is to the department. He and his peers in the Secret Service never got any debriefing or counseling after the shock and trauma they experienced with President Kennedy’s assassination. So they suffered in silence.”
Thanks to all of our VAPs for helping to make sure the people in our community don’t have to suffer in silence.
Jerry shared some other photos with me of his time on the Kennedy Detail.
We just got an update from Commander Greg Assenmacher, who is flying as a guardian for two WWII vets on the Western Slope Honor Flight. He just messaged us that plane has landed in Baltimore, and the vets and their guardians are off on their whirlwind tour of the D.C. monuments. The veterans said this morning’s sendoff was amazing and we can’t wait to hear all of their stories when they return home tomorrow evening (Oct. 6th). Don’t forget to grab your red, white and blue and come to the airport to welcome the Honor Flight home. It’s a guaranteed heart warming, patriotic, goosebumpy good time! The plane is scheduled to land at approximately 6:45 pm, so get there a little early and enjoy the bands and good company from the community. Photos from this morning’s sendoff are on our Facebook page.
The ripple from World War II can still be felt across the country, but the depth of these ripples don’t get any deeper than those found in the hearts of the WWII veterans; men who put their lives on the line for freedoms that are so easily taken for granted today.
Thanks to Western Slope Honor Flight, tomorrow, October 5th, 110 of these veterans will take off from the Grand Junction Regional Airport to begin a 37 hour journey that will take them on a whirlwind adventure to the memorials in Washington D.C. that were forged in their honor and in honor of the other men and women who gave their lives so many years ago. Tuesday’s flight will be the third trip organized by Western Slope Honor Flight, and the Grand Junction Police Department is proud to again be part of this community event.
The Honor Flight program began in 2005 when twelve veterans flew to D.C. from Springfield, OH, and has grown into a national recognition of the veterans who gave so much for their country. Statistics from 2008 show we are losing approximately 1,000 WWII veterans a day. Honor Flight gives these heroes the recognition they deserve.
Last May was the first Honor Flight the GJPD assisted with. Several officers and civilian employees were on hand to help the veterans up the stairs and into the plane. From the moment the first vet stepped onto the tarmac you could feel the goosebumps and the warm hearts. The vets had the biggest smiles; smiles that were contagious for the officers and fire fighters who had come to help. In fact, the plan was to only have the officers get the vets onto the plane and then they would be done, however once that was accomplished the officers decided to line up with their police cars as the plane taxied to the runway for takeoff, giving the vets a saluted send off. And that was just the beginning of the memorable moments this event created for our employees.
“Please know that your sacrifices, and the sacrifices of those who did not make it home, will forever inspire generations to continue to make our country the best on Earth.”
-Police Chief John Camper (quote from a letter to the veterans)
The amazing atmosphere that surrounded the Honor Flight was only magnified as the vets returned home to an airport packed with people, bands, and honor guards who came out to say thank you for their service. Just try to imagine how much red, white, and blue there was! That is why we hope you will join us to welcome the vets home on Wednesday, October 6th at about 6:45pm at the Grand Junction Regional Airport. It’s your chance to feel the flood of emotions the Honor Flight brings for both the veterans and the community.
” A real man would run a mile in her shoes.”
During Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 2nd, the Grand Junction Police Department, along with other local organizations and members of the media, will be participating in the Men in High Heels Race for Domestic Violence Awareness. A team of male officers along with the Chief of Police will be donning some lovely ladies shoes and hitting the pavement to see who can run the fastest without breaking an ankle.
According to the Latimer House, a local domestic violence advocacy program and shelter, there were 49 deaths in the state of Colorado last year as a result of domestic violence. 80% of those deaths involved the use of firearms. Also last year nearly 5, 300 women and children received shelter and another 5, 400 were turned away because the shelters were full. Domestic violence is one of the most common calls officers respond to in the United States today. This event hopes to raise awareness about domestic violence and to let victims know that someone is there for them.
As a law enforcement agency, our employees deal with domestic violence related issues on a daily basis. Officers routinely respond to domestic disputes, often involving the same couples over and over. Our victim advocates work with those affected by this abuse, trying to get them the help they need to end the cycle of violence. All of this, combined with the sobering statistics related to this type of crime, are the reasons our officers are willing to look a little silly to raise money and awareness.
The Grand Junction Police Department’s high heels race team is looking for sponsors to donate for the cause. If you would like to help, drop off your donation at the police station at 6th Street and Ute Avenue. Then, come out to see the guys sport some pretty shoes. The race begins at 11 am on October 2nd on Colorado Ave. between 6th and 7th St. It’s sure to be fun to watch, and who knows, your support may end up saving someone from a lifetime of abuse.
Talk about a big response! Last week we put a call out for everyone in Mesa County to drop off their unused, expired, and otherwise unwanted prescription drugs during the first ever National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Not only did the community respond to this new program, you and your neighbors responded in a big way. More than two hundred pounds of prescription drugs will now be disposed of in a safe way and won’t be lying around in medicine cabinets where children or drug abusers can get their hands on them, or flushed down the toilet where they would enter our water systems. Just at the Police Department alone we collected 138 pounds of that grand total.
It was interesting to watch and listen to the people who came by to drop off their unwanted medications at the Police Department. For the four hours we were open for collections we had a fairly steady stream of folks coming by, often with grocery bags full of prescriptions to get rid of. For the most part, they were some of our more seasoned residents, but not all. What struck me the most was that even though this was supposed to be an anonymous, no questions asked way for people to clean out their medicine cabinets, most of the people who came by seemed to want to give us at least some information. Several of the people appeared a bit surprised when we didn’t ask for their names or what kinds of medication they were dropping off. “That’s it?” was a common phrase that morning when they handed the officer their bag and he simply said “Thank you.”
I can’t help but imagine what stories there are behind each and every one of those who came by. I chuckled when one of the ladies, who dropped of a significantly sized bag of medications, walked up to the counter, smiled, and said “Hello, just so you know I’m not a drug dealer.” The officer chuckled too, and reassured her he didn’t think she was. The lady then began to share a story about her husband who had recently passed and how he had to take a lot of medications during the end of his life. She didn’t go into a lot of detail, but you could tell she had a lot of memories to share.
There were other folks like her, and although we weren’t able to sit and talk with each and every one, we were glad we could at least provide a small service for them. I heard several people say, “I’ve had these around for years and just didn’t know what to do with them.” Nearly everybody said “thanks for doing this, it’s a great service.” We too say thank you. Thanks for taking the extra step and the time out of your day to do something that will help keep these old medications out of the wrong hands.
You may have caught some of the news coverage lately regarding our decision to move out of the substation at the mall. It’s a decision that took some time to make. Since 2002 we have had that storefront location which gave the public easy access to officers who could answer their questions and provide them with information. Despite the images of “Paul Blart- Mall Cop” that some of that media coverage painted, the officers assigned to the substation are not in charge of security for the mall. That’s handled by a private company. Rather they are either part of our Community Advocacy Program (CAP) or School Resource Officers (SRO). We also have an administrative assistant and a number of volunteers who work out of the mall substation.
CAP officers are essentially community liaisons. The officers address specific concerns from neighborhoods and work to educate the public on various safety and crime prevention issues. They are in charge of a number of programs including Neighborhood Watch, Crime Free Multi-housing and Crime Free Hotels, National Night Out, and Crime Stoppers. All of these are very effective tools in teaching the public how to keep crime out and how not to be a victim, which is why the Community Advocacy Program is not going away. Yes, some of the CAP officers have been reassigned to patrol the streets because of some vacancies we currently have, but the officers who are still assigned to this unit will continue to work directly with our community and teach you how to stay safe, they’ll just be doing it from the main police station downtown.
Our SROs haven’t gone away either, they just don’t have a desk at the mall anymore. Thanks to our partnership with School District 51 we’ve been able to find them desks in the schools the SROs are assigned to.
So why close this substation you ask? There are a few reasons. First, we just haven’t been seeing the interest from the public that we used to. Fewer and fewer people are choosing to stop by the substation for information. We also have fewer officers using that space since we’ve moved some of them to patrol the streets. We also pay approximately $9,000 a year for utilities and cleaning fees just for the substation. Combine those factors and it simply doesn’t make sense to keep it open, especially in tight budget times, not to mention it really isn’t fair to the mall to take up space that isn’t being fully staffed.
Closing the substation won’t happen immediately. In talking with the folks at the mall, we agree that having a few officers there during the busy holiday shopping season would be a good idea. The plan is to move the remaining officers to the main police department at the end of the year. We’re grateful for the partnership we’ve had with the mall over the last 8 years, which allowed us to use the space rent free, and we will continue to provide them, and all of our community with the same professional service you have come to expect.