Friday, February 26, 2016

Great career draws to close

Today is the last day for our police chief, Jim Peschong, who retires after a 41 year career with the City. Jim and I have worked together during that entire time, and the memories are many. Early in our careers, Jim distinguished himself as a real go-getter in criminal investigations. Even as a patrol officer, he had a knack for criminal work that everyone recognized.

It was no surprise when he became a detective. Our paths diverged for a while, as Jim focused on the criminal side of the police department and I went off for a seven year stint at the Sheriff's Office. We came back together, though, in 1994 when I was appointed police chief, and Jim was the captain commanding the Northwest/Center Police Team--the largest and busiest command in the City. A few years later, when a retirement opened an assistant chief slot, Jim was my choice. When I left to take my assignment as director of public safety, the Mayor and I agreed that Jim was the logical choice for chief.

One of the reasons I selected Jim as my assistant chief was that I felt we had complimentary skill sets. The things he was best at were not my strong suit, and vice versa. I don't know if he felt the same about that, but I do know that we worked very effectively together for the past 22 years, enjoyed one another's company, and accomplished many good things. I'm going to miss him a lot.

Every year when it came time to complete Jim's annual performance evaluation, my comments started off with the same thing, the characteristic that I most admired and appreciated: his ethics. I never saw Jim make any decision or take any action that was motivated by anything other than a desire to do the right thing. While there are those who have disagreed with them (as with any chief) from time to time, no one can claim that he was trying to polish his own badge.

Jim Peschong leaves a legacy at LPD. He has passed along his skill in criminal investigation to many others who learned from him. He was an innovator in the mid 1990's as a team captain in initiating greater public involvement in decisions that had previously been made by the police internally, with little input or attention to our citizens. He has helped to cement the value of citizen engagement as a part of our DNA. Soon, we will be moving to a marvelous new firearms range, a project that Jim shepherded through many daunting snares and obstacles.

There are many others, too numerous to mention. Two that I think are vastly under appreciated, and for which Jim sometimes was subjected to a lot of criticism, are relatively recent. Jim worked hard to make sure that Lincoln police officers are scrupulous in their use of seat belts, and to bend the curve on dangerous driving. These efforts were overdue, no thanks to his predecessor. Despite a lot of howling in the process, these are critical to the safety of our police officers. This issue that Jim took on is protecting our officers today, and will continue to protect them in the future. Every Lincoln police officer should thank him--and so should their family members.

One winter about 15 years ago, Lincoln had some early snow in December that had made a mess of the parking areas at the police garage. Mounds of refrozen snow had turned the entire area into ridges of icy ruts and knee-high drifts between all the parked patrol cars. On Christmas Eve that year, Assistant Chief Jim Peschong and Sgt. Dan Schmidt, off duty, brought their own equipment down to the garage: pickups, trailers, skid loader, and spent the day jockeying parked cars so they could use their power equipment to scrape the snow and ice down to the gravel and asphalt. They did this for one reason only: to make the rest of the winter a little more bearable for their coworkers.

That's the kind of person Jim is. I wish him well in his next adventure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said Tom.....