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Community In Focus

The Eyes Of A Cop The Heart Of A Friend
By Mitch Traphagen mitch@observernews.net
Dec 28, 2006, 21:14

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Hillsborough County Sheriff�s Office Major Jerry York. Mitch Traphagen Photo
RUSKIN
- If anyone is a walking definition of what society wants in a law enforcement officer, it is Jerry York.  He is certainly not your typical cop (assuming there is such a thing) - in fact, there is nothing typical about him.  Major Jerry York, you see, has "It."

There is no way to explain what "It" is - some people have it, most people don't.  It is something that comes from the heart.  It is a drive - or better yet, a passion.  And York has an abundance of passion.

There are few people who focus on the community like he does.  He takes responsibility - the good and the bad - and he feels the trials and pain felt by both his deputies and the public he serves.  You see, he takes the quote, "To Protect and Serve" literally.  He believes it is his job to serve and protect not only you but also those who work for him. 

It is a big responsibility - he works in a business that deals with the worst that life has to offer.  Few people call to invite deputies over when things are going well - they call when there is trouble - and the deputies are expected to fix that trouble 100 percent of the time.

York's District IV office in Ruskin is widely considered to be among the most difficult districts to patrol but yet is among the most popular in the Sheriff's Office.  Deputies want to come here - and there is a reason for that.  They want to work for Jerry York. 

Ironically, none of them ever will because York works hard to ensure that those deputies work for the public.  He doesn't set quotas for traffic tickets, he doesn't expect deputies to haul a specific number of people off to jail - he simply expects them to do their jobs professionally, politely and efficiently.  He sees his job as clearing the way to allow them to do just that.

In his office is a book about U.S. Marine Corps Lt. General Chesty Puller.  The book was given to him by a well known and much loved member of the community - a man who once reported to Puller.  In the book is an inscription in which the man wrote that Puller didn't order his men to do anything; he let them do great things.  The inscription is about York as much as Puller.

Whether it is driving 1,600 miles round-trip to attend a graduation ceremony for a deputy working to better himself or making the effort to ensure that enough hours are logged and paychecks continue for an employee with a new baby - York has done that.  He is open enough to be quick with a hug and man enough to show his emotions as tears well up in his eyes at the thought of losing one of "his kids" - Deputy David Abella, who died in the line of duty in 2004.  York is an example not only for his men, but also for many of us lucky enough to have met him.

With 35 years of service behind him, there are countless such stories that could be told.

He won't like this article.  He would prefer that I write something about his deputies.  He would say they are the ones doing all of the work.  But if I were to ask the deputies (and I have - at least several of them), they would - to an individual - want York to be shown for what he really is:  A man with the eyes of a cop and the heart of a friend.

And I am proud and honored to call him a friend.


© Copyright 2007 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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