Friday, March 30, 2012

Lasting legacy

I was barely 21, with all of three months on the job at LPD when I teamed up with Sgt. Jon Briggs. He recruited me to join his six-person Alcohol Safety Action Program Squad in late 1974. I joined Officers Steve Wetzel, Jon Morris, Mike Garnett, Barry Rogers, and Steve Worster in the most difficult assignment of my career: working a shift from 7:30 PM to 4:00 AM, Tuesday and Wednesday as days off, with court appearances at 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, and 2:00 PM almost every weekday. We spent our nights smelling beer breath professionally, and our days cat-napping between court appearances. Jon Briggs was the supervisor of our squad, and he had mastered the art of small group dynamics. He managed to teach us what we needed to know (Jon, Mike, Steve, can you still remember the Poropak-Q column, the flame-ionized detector, and 37.5 degrees Celsius?), motivate us to perform some incredible work, and make one of the worst assignments imaginable positively fun in the process.

It wasn't the last time I worked for Jon. A few years later, as a young sergeant myself, I joined him in the Traning Unit, where he was the lieutenant in command. For about three years, we worked tirelessly to create a police academy, and produce an incredible array of in-service training every Wednesday, all year long. Sgt. Jim Hawkins, Sgt. Mike Siefkes, Sgt. Steve Lamken and Lt. Jon Briggs were quite a team, but Jon was the spark plug that made the engine roar to life.

Jon and I also worked together for several years in a part-time consulting assignment. We would burn up all of our accumulated vacation hours, and haul off to somewhere like Baltimore or Fresno as subcontractors to the Social Development Corporation, living together in a motel room for a few weeks conducting job analyses. What a great time we had on these jobs: seeing the country, working intensely, and earning extra cash for such things as the new furniture that still graces the Casady living room more than 30 years later. At the top of his game, Jon was an inspirational leader and the quintessential idea man.

I'm sure many other LPD officers younger than me had the same kinds of experiences when Capt. Briggs commanded LPD's Northeast Police Team, when he served as a late shift Duty Commander, and when he commanded the department's SWAT Team. They may not, however, realize that Jon Briggs is responsible for bringing the Field Training program to LPD, and the Chaplaincy Corps, and Problem-Oriented Policing, and Domestic Crisis Intervention, and that it was Jon Briggs who conceived the City's Problem-Resolution Team--to name a few of his innovations. Jon had an incredible ability to perceive and pounce upon great new ideas.

Jon retired in 1998 after 31 years of service, and passed away this week. I have been smiling at memories of our work together, our roadtrips, our pranks, the things Jon taught me, the bizarre experience we shared learning to ski (quite ill-attired) at Badger Pass in Yosemite on Christmas--my first and last time on the slopes. And I'll never forget one evening after a long day on the road when we relaxed in our motel bar on the National Pike.  It was a typical collection of business types enjoying the free buffet, when about 8:00 PM the place suddenly morphed into an east coast disco curiously named Rodeo, and straight out of Saturday Night Fever. Jon tried to teach me how to ask a girl to dance, the memory of which had me laughing aloud and alone in my office yesterday. Ah, the stories I could tell....

It was hard for those who knew him in his peak years to witness his decline, but I will always remember him for his brilliance, humor, motivation, and above all, his friendship. He leaves a lasting legacy at the Lincoln Police Department.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rode in Cushman scooters with Briggs and 4 other cadets writing parking tickets in 1967. Carroll was chief. Sgt Cox was our supervsor. How time flies.

LincolnAmy said...

I have known the Briggs family my whole life,I have ran into you at Jon's last wedding. I have see them at their best and their worst. Thank for your words about the good Jon did. It was neat to see him from your point of view.

LincolnAmy said...

I have known the Briggs family my entire life, I grew up next door and I am friends with Brandy. I ran into you last at Jon's last wedding. I have seen the family at their best and at their worst. It was really neat to see Jon from your point of view. Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your positive memories of my father, it means so much to me during this very difficult time. You always knew what I was going through with him and treated me with nohting but respect and dignity when my strength was starting to slide. Your comments have been the most positive tribute to my father that will probably be written.

Thank you
Cas Briggs

MrLarry351 said...

Thanks for remembering and writing this, Tom.
He was a solid policeman. He got problems with troubled people solved and was essentially fearless in the face of danger. When perilous incidents reached conclusion, he'd just shrug his shoulders and move on.
Sadly, he's gone too soon.

Mr. Larry

Clean said...

Sorry to hear about Jon. My memory of him was as a very smart, soft-spoken, and dedicated guy. I'm trying to place the other young-looking guy in the photo, though.

Gretchen said...

Thank you for your kind memories of him. Jon was a great guy. We always embraced the good times. Especially his wife, who stood by his side and helped him through a lot of troubling times. My favorite memory is with he and my son, when my son wouldn't eat his dinner, Jon got out ice-cream and gave him a scoop of dinner and then a scoop of ice-cream. I wasn't too happy, but my son sure was! He had a way with people and did so much after his retirement. He will be missed. And may he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like LPD used to be a fun place to work. Too bad it's gotten to where it is now. Maybe the future will be better. One can only hope.

Steve said...

It's kind of sad someone would use this post to air a complaint.

My condolences to the Briggs family.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute. My condolences to his loved ones.

Anonymous said...

Jon was my team Captain for my first 6 years on the dept. Well respected man who was very good at chewing your behind when you messed up, but you always knew that once you left his office, that matter was left behind also. May he finally rest in peace.
Jbrandl957

Anonymous said...

It's still a fun place to work, maybe it's just YOU that's not fun.

Unknown said...

Your “Lasting Legacy” comment is the perfect tribute to a great man…Jon Briggs. I was an officer with LPD for over four years back in the 70’s. Jon (and you) were involved in the excellent training I received as a recruit. Throughout my years at LPD, Jon was frequently the watch commander. Jon was an excellent supervisor…and…more importantly, a great leader. When I was feeling the fear of being a new recruit, Jon frequently instilled in me the self confidence to do my job. He was there when I needed help and gave me the freedom to do my job when appropriate.
To call Jon a motivator and role model sounds like a cliché…but that cliché is the perfect description. Officers working under him wanted to work hard because he expected it and because he worked hard. Officers under him wanted to do the right thing because he did the right thing. Jon expressed his expectations of us regarding such things as ethics, procedures, performance standards, and conduct. Knowing what was expected of me made my job much easier. Jon expected no more from officers than what he did of himself.
Jon was an innovator in every aspect of his work…from handling simple calls…to long range planning for the department. He encouraged his officers to be innovative.
John was a major force in making the Lincoln Police Department the excellent department it is.
My thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and with the Department during this tragic loss.
Don Shurtleff

Earl Harman said...

I also rode in Cushman scooter, issuing parking tickets. My fellow cadets were Clair Lindquist, Curtis Hibdon and our sergeant was Sgt. Hynek. It was a great time to be alive. I was then an officer after I got out of the service. I only served for a short time before moving on.