Gerald “Jerry” Smith will always miss being a police officer, which he has been in Cedar Lake for more than 22 years. Not to mention, he’ll also miss the kids in Cedar Lake and Crown Point schools.
Smith retired Oct. 2 as Cedar Lake police chief and says his five years in that role were rewarding. But his fondest memories will always lie with the DARE program he oversaw.
“By far, (DARE) was the biggest achievement I had in the department,” Smith said. “I really enjoyed it, working with all the schools, the administration. It was a very good 15 years.”
Smith tendered his resignation in July during some emotional remarks at a Town Council meeting. The crowd and town officials gave him a standing ovation. Smith’s early announcement was meant to ensure a smooth transition.
Deputy Chief Carl Brittingham has been named acting chief, and town officials say they will be ready to appoint Smith’s permanent replacement soon.
Smith had been seriously injured in an accident in 2000, and the many get-well cards he got from children convinced him to take a position with the department’s DARE program.
“I tell new DARE officers you're never going to know the impact you have on all those kids,” he said.
“Thirty years (might go by) and you might not know. (But) you can have people come up to you” and talk about the impact. Smith had that experience at his going-away party. Twenty former DARE students came to wish him well.
“You were their DARE officer, that’s the part they remember,” he said. "Hopefully when it comes time to make decisions (they’ll remember what they were taught) and won’t make bad decisions."
Smith also made connections during his 11 years volunteering with Pups Basketball. He formed bonds with both children and adults. “You really get to know more people that way, you really get to reach out to more people,” Smith said.
First on Smith’s agenda as a retired police officer is arranging some R&R. Two days after his last day in office he was “working on getting to Florida. When I get back, I’ll get back to doing something, I’m not sure (what), yet.”