Police Department captain fulfills childhood wishes
Craig — For many, working is simply a means to an end, a way to earn a paycheck and a living. For the lucky few, however, their chosen profession isn’t work at all, but rather a long-held dream turned into reality.
Count Jerry DeLong, a veteran Craig Police Department officer, among the lucky.
“Ever since I could remember,” said DeLong, currently a police department captain and second-in-command, “I wanted to be a police officer.
“I guess I can’t put one certain thing (behind it). I think, maybe, it was the idea of being able to help people and make our community safer.”
DeLong, 50, a Fowler native, joined the Police Department in August 1985 and hasn’t left, making him the longest tenured officer in the department. He rose from the ranks as a street patrolman to his position today, which includes supervising department records and investigations.
As a supervisor for investigations, DeLong has helped coordinate probes into a wide-range of serious offenses, including homicide, suspicious death, robbery, assault and many others.
Previously a maintenance worker for the state’s highway department, when DeLong heard about an opening with the police department, old childhood dreams kicked in and he applied for the posting.
For the next five years, DeLong worked the streets.
One particular moment during his time as a patrolman stands out: DeLong and another officer – current Captain Bill Leonard, the department’s second-longest tenured officer – were called to the 500 block of Yampa Avenue on a report that a woman had been stabbed.
“Bill and I went there and ended up catching the suspect,” DeLong said about the incident, which occurred about 15 years ago. “He is in (the Department of Corrections) now, and the lady recovered from her injuries.”
Why does the incident stand out?
“It’s, I guess, one of the reasons why I wanted to become a police officer in the first place,” he said. “It made our community safer.”
His work doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Police Chief Walt Vanatta has worked with DeLong for 11 years. The chief said his second-in-command is a valued, integral part of the department.
“Jerry brings a lot of stability and also a great deal of institutional memory,” Vanatta said. He cited DeLong’s graduation from a Federal Bureau of Investigation command college as an example of how the captain has “grown into his role and leadership abilities.”
“I have a great deal of confidence in him when I am gone because of his common sense and good leadership and how he uses that to make good decisions,” Vanatta said.
DeLong has been married to his wife, Phyllis, for 25 years. They have two daughters.
When he’s not doing police work, DeLong spends his time helping one of his girls, a 12-year-old, show animals through 4-H. He said the work with his daughter helps keep him grounded away from the office.
“With the outside activities I have, I don’t let (police work) totally engulf my life,” DeLong said.
A 23-year veteran, DeLong said he has no plans of leaving the only department he’s ever known in law enforcement.
“As long as I’m able to do it and I can make a positive contribution,” he said, about how long he wants to keep working. “As far as I’m concerned, I can retire from the Craig Police Department.”
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It seems like the best celestial events too often happen in the wee hours of the morning, in the cold dead of winter.