Volume 2: Spring 2010
At first glance, he might seem a bit intimidating. Adorned in a crisp uniform with a Greeley Police patch stitched on both arms, he stands with the posture of a military man. His eyes are friendly, contrasting with his assertive appearance. It’s obvious that his whole world is invested in the Greeley Police Department, and that’s OK with him.
Chief of Police Jerry Garner is more than just a supervisor at a local law enforcement agency; he is a human resources director, a media relations representative, a risk manager and a self-proclaimed ham.
On this frosty Wednesday afternoon, Garner has returned to his office after meeting with a reporter from The Denver Post. This task is not atypical, yet each day on the job is a little bit spontaneous for Garner. Some mornings, he opens his day by reviewing e-mails and voicemails, meeting with the staff to discuss personnel issues and new laws’ effects on the department, or attending meetings with everyone from city managers to residents. He might be discussing an operational crisis with one of his nearly 260 employees. For some, this may seem like a heavy load to carry. But Garner says he considers the best part of his job to be the people.
“My favorite part of the job is the nice people you get to meet, both inside the organization and outside in the community,” Garner said. “If you’re a ham, like I am, and like talking to people, this is the place to do it, because one thing a police chief has to do is to talk to people.”
Garner is the unofficial spokesperson for the department. While the Greeley Police Department does employ a public information officer, Garner says there are just some things he has to do. Those tasks include discussing budget issues, maintaining relations with other law enforcement agencies or discussing crime issues with the district attorney. Meeting with people and personnel encompasses all areas of Garner’s job.
“Basically, chiefs are heads of bureaucracies and must provide leadership for their organization and inspire confidence in the public they serve,” said Mary West-Smith, University of Northern Colorado assistant professor of criminal justice.
Not only does the chief provide leadership, he also sets norms for how the department should run.
“The chief sets standards, both professionally and morally,” said Joe Tymkowych, public information officer for the Greeley Police Department. “He ensures that they are instituted.”
Garner makes it clear that this isn’t a conventional job. Several days a week, he performs tasks that run outside of a classic workday or even classic work duties. Every Tuesday evening, Garner attends City Council meetings. Tonight, Garner will sit in on a neighborhood association meeting. Being well-informed on the city is a key task of the chief of police. Additionally, so is showing care for a member of his team, even if it’s during the dazzle of the midnight moon.
|Chief's rap sheet|
• Garner became the chief of police for the Greeley Police Department on Jan. 30, 2006.
• He has been in police work for just over 40 years.
• He has worked at six law enforcement organizations and has been a policeman in three states: Texas, Kansas and Colorado.
• Garner was employed with the Lakewood Police Department for 30 years.
• Garner’s Mission Statement for the Greeley Police Department: To improve and protect the quality of life of the people of Greeley.
• The Greeley Police Department serves more than 93,000 people in the community.
“I may get called in the middle of the night because one of my officers has gotten hurt,” Garner said. “One of the people things you do is to go check on him. I’m not a doctor, I didn’t help him any by going. You care about your folks. It’s not an eight-to-five job. It’s whenever they need you. ”
Garner developed an interest in police work while working on his journalism degree from Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, as he worked as a police reporter. In 1969, Garner made the decision to turn his interest in criminal justice into a career. He pursued a master’s degree in administration of justice at Webster University in the 1970s.
“When I was working as a police reporter, I was really interested in what cops do,” Garner said. “As chief, you need to get the background of doing the job at the level of a rookie police officer, right up through sergeant and lieutenant. You learn a little bit from every one of them. I just thought it looked interesting. And it still is.”
Despite all the struggles with people, department goals and new laws, Garner wouldn’t trade his job for anything in the world.
“There is a Mel Brooks quote in a movie where he says, ‘It’s good to be king,’” Garner said. “Well, it’s good to be police chief. For all the bad days and the bad moments, I still think the good days and the good moments win. You get to feel like you are doing something important. ”