Volume 74, Number 48 | April 06 - 12 , 2005

A Salute
to Volunteers

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert

Above, Jerry Jansen, 90, retired Greenwich Village auxiliary officer, in a ceremony last week, received his badge back from Deputy Inspector Theresa Shortell, Sixth Precinct commanding officer.

Serving as an auxiliary officer was a badge of honor

By Albert Amateau

If there were a contest in the Village for the title of “Volunteer Extraordinary,” Jerry Jansen, of the Sixth Precinct’s Auxiliary Police Unit, would be a leading contender.

Jansen, 90, a living legend in the Village, was honored last week by his fellow volunteer officers and the precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Theresa Shortell, who presented him with the badge, newly restored and polished, that he turned in last September when he retired from the unit after 33 years of service.

Precinct cops, auxiliaries and Village neighbors paid tribute on March 30 to the man who has served the precinct longer than any of them and rose to the rank of deputy inspector in the Police Auxiliary.

The certificate of appreciation that Shortell presented to Jansen cites four awards of merit, a letter recognizing his role in a fire rescue and tributes from Village block associations, schools, businesses and individuals to Jansen’s dedication and service to the community over the past three decades. An Award of Valor cites the day in February 1979, when Jansen, off duty and out of uniform, was in a Village supermarket and helped subdue a robber who pulled a gun when Jansen confronted him.

“That was a little out of the routine,” acknowledged Jansen, a resident of Perry St. for 50 years and a founder and active member of the Perry St. Block Association. Betty Rinckwitz, current president of the block association, said, “We have a close relationship with the Auxiliary because of Jerry.”

“Jerry is frightened of absolutely nothing,” said Stephanie Phelin, a Sixth Precinct Auxilliary officer for 24 years.

“I was a brand-new cop in the precinct in 1982 when I first met Jerry,” said Detective Mike Singer. “I pulled up in front of the precinct and Jerry was standing there in uniform. He told me, ‘You can’t park there.’ I didn’t know he was an auxiliary — I just saw his captain’s bars so I drove to a spot down the street,” Singer recalled.

As high-ranking auxiliary officer — he became a captain in October 1978 and a deputy inspector 10 years later — Jansen was on call for boroughwide assignments, especially for parades. “He did duty at the Halloween Parade here in the Village and up until about three years ago he was assigned to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, standing right next to the cardinal in front of the cathedral,” Singer recalled

Volunteering has been a way of life for Jansen since 1941 when he and his friends went to a recruiting station in their Queens neighborhood the day after Pearl Harbor and volunteered for military service in World War II. In the Second Marine Division, Jansen took part in four island invasions and won a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and a Navy Letter of Commendation for saving a squad member’s life.

After the war, Jansen returned to his job as a painter with the New York City Housing Authority. A stalwart member of the Painters’ Union, he volunteered to argue on behalf of fellow union members fighting dismissal from NYCHA, and won 12 out of 13 cases. Jansen has also been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxilliary for 30 years.

With all that volunteer background, Jansen holds his service in the Police Auxiliary as especially significant and called the March 30 event, “A wonderful day for me.”

The event was also an opportunity for fellow auxiliary members to begin planning a recruiting drive for the Sixth Precinct unit, which currently has 17 members. Sergeant Vera Reale, a Village native with the Sixth Precinct Auxiliaries for 18 years, said the unit is a valuable law enforcement element because its members live and work in the neighborhood and can handle sensitive situations with firsthand knowledge.

Officer Nellie Flores, a member of the Sixth Precinct for 12 years, is the precinct’s new auxiliary coordinator. “The auxiliaries recruit at block associations, street fairs and right here at the precinct station on 10th St.,” she said.

Men and women in good health between the ages of 17 and 60 may apply — people over 60 may qualify for limited duty. Applicants usually serve in the precincts where they live or work. They must be citizens or permanent residents, read and write English and have never been convicted of a felony or have a previous arrest record that would prevent acceptance.

Currently, three volunteers from the Sixth Precinct are taking training in the Seventh Precinct stationhouse on Pitt St. just south of Delancey St., but Flores said that larger classes in the future would be conducted in the Village stationhouse.

The 16-week course — from once to twice a week — can be converted to four college credits and includes first aid, patrol technique, social science, criminal law, self-defense, radio communication, classroom and field training.

“It’s like a mini-Police Academy,” said Flores.

Upon successful completion of the course — there are tests on the academic and physical parts of the training — applicants are given vouchers to pay for their uniforms. They may spend a few hours a week or more on assignments that could include foot, car or bicycle patrols of residential or commercial areas, assisting crime-prevention programs, patrols at houses of worship, senior citizen escorts, special-events duty, assignments at street fairs and parades. They don’t carry firearms.

Officer Mike Reyes, instructor of auxiliaries at the Seventh Precinct, said the training and the duty is serious enough to serve as a steppingstone to full-time jobs in law enforcement. The auxiliary commanding officer of the Seventh Precinct, Hendrick Martinez, for example, has been an auxiliary volunteer for 23 years and has worked as a school safety supervisor in Brooklyn for 19 years, a job for which he says he was prepared by his auxiliary experience. “We’ve had auxiliaries getting jobs in police departments in places like Baltimore,” Reyes said.

Downtown residents who want to become auxiliary officers should phone Flores after 5:30 p.m. at 212-741-2032.

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