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Looking Back 1997-1988 

by Jerry Wimpee  
[Past President, Park Law Enforcement Association]

I am obligated, by duty to those who are not present, to share my witness of the beginnings of our association along with some commentary.

 “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”  
Winston Churchill

The 1960s was a period of revolution in America.  It was a time when traditional values, authority, and laws were contested and subsequently changed.  The associated events of civil disobedience, war protest, assassinations, and civil rights conflicts together altered the accepted tenets of order.  I stand in awe of the courage and restraint demonstrated by law enforcement officers, in the face of such evil public behavior.

During the 1960s and 1970s, by necessity, new ways of maintaining order were developed primarily by the front line warriors, park law enforcement officers. Naturally, most of the Park and Recreation Executives/Politicians would be on a longer learning curve.  As a result of officers’ experiences and their adaptability, they became the most knowledgeable group concerning new order maintenance planning/application.  For law enforcement, it was time to shift to knowledge management.  Most park law enforcement groups were limited in their effort to herald this knowledge due to the fact that they had limited professional recognition within the Park and Recreation Profession, a significant dilemma.

Prevailing attitudes within the parks and recreation profession were that their law enforcement services were a necessary evil, “after all they are in the fun and games business and therefore it is unpleasant to correct an invited visitor.”  Such attitudes contributed to the absence of the proper understanding of the “modern” role and professional support for thousands of park and recreation employees working in law enforcement and visitor protection services.  Subsequently, a void existed which would limit the parks and recreation role and mission.  For park law enforcement professionals, it was time to fish, or cut bait.

Let’s Fish!  Respectable partnerships would be required to create a forum to improve the status quo position.  Such a forum needed to appear as a third party endeavor in order to obtain travel approval, etc.  In 1978 Dallas Park Police Chief, Jerry Wimpee visited with Dr. Jim Fletcher, Associate Professor at Texas A&M University and discussed our issues.  In response to the professional void and linkage, Texas A&M University and the City of Dallas Park Police organized a Park law Enforcement and Visitor Protection Workshop.  This annual workshop began in 1979 for the purpose of having a creditable vehicle to facilitate the needs of the law enforcement practitioners.

The first Park Law Enforcement and Visitor Workshop was held on the Texas A&M campus. Following the initial meeting, a Workshop Advisory Board was created to shepherd future workshops.  Additionally, the Advisory Board set in motion the formation of a park law enforcement association.  The National Alliance of Park Law Enforcement Association was created to strengthen professional networks and to expand educational opportunities. NAPLEA was chartered as a non-profit corporation in the State of Colorado. 

We purposed to keep the original people in charge through its formative years believing that each would best know when to place their shared dream into the custody of others. All advisors were in agreement on the importance of organizational stability during the first several years of this new association. 

The name Park Law Enforcement Association was chosen by the Board because of its straightforward relationship to our function.  This occurred June 1984 in a Special Meeting of NAPLEA Directors at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.  The officers, at this time, were President Jerry Wimpee, newly elected Vice President J.C. Lindsey, and Secretary/Treasurer Gordon Greenwell.  PLEA officers and board members remained the same as NAPLEA except Gene Moore stepped down from vice president to board member.  At this time PLEA was chartered as a non-profit corporation in the State of Texas.

In 1984, we were provided with an opportunity to “come through the front door” which proved to be a most productive time for park law enforcement.  It started with my introduction to John Davis, Executive Director for the National Park and Recreation Association.  He invited me to come visit NRPA headquarters and to stay at his home with him and his wife for a few days.  What a perfect way to spread our message from the top down.  John Davis invited me to be a presenter to the NRPA Trustees at their upcoming annual meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The opportunity to personally make the trustees aware of the park law enforcement voice and to judge for themselves our honest endeavors to improve the situation from within the park and recreation profession worked great.  The role of professional park law enforcement was now seen from the top down in the park and recreation profession.  Our message was warmly received by the trustees, and they encouraged our continued involvement with them.  I was invited to present again at their next trustee meeting held during the 1984 NRPA Congress in Orlando.  Additionally, we were given an educational slot on the general program agenda. 

PLEA’s formal NRPA affiliation began in April 1985.  John Davis, NRPA Executive Director, and Jerry Wimpee, PLEA President, executed a Memorandum of Understanding setting forth special services/responsibilities to address a mutual working relationship between National Parks and Recreation Association and the Park Law Enforcement Association. This event completed our original start-up recognition objectives, which were:                  

  • -  Academic recognition via Texas A&M University.
  • -  Profession recognition via National Park and Recreation Association. 

 There were Five Milestones during the formative period of the association:

             1.  The Partnership of Strangers -  who became trusted friends while working 

                 together to improve park law enforcement.

                         *  Dr. James Fletcher, Texas A&M University, Texas

                        *  Chief Gordon Greenwell, South Suburban Park District, Colorado

                        *  Chief Ranger Ralph Hayes, Johnson County Park District, Kansas

                        *  Training Coordinator Andy Hutchinson, National Park Service, FLETC

                        *  Deputy Chief J. C. Lindsey, U.S. Park Police, Washington D.C.

                        *  Capitan Gene Moore, Land Between The Lakes, Kentucky

                        *  Professor Dan Murrell, Cecil G. Humphries School of Law, Tennessee  

                        *  Chief Jerry Wimpee, City of Dallas Park Police, Texas

                        *  Chief of Rangers Bourbon Zeigler, Cleveland Metro Parks, Ohio 

             2.  The Partnership with Texas A&M University -  which provided the forum, needed to  begin and to continue.

             3.  The Partnership with Land Between The Lakes -  which improved workshop  

                 participation for many practioners, due to its accessibility, for three consecutive years.  Many of the needed future leaders attended our workshop during this period.

             4.  The Partnership with National Parks and Recreation Association -  which provided  needed recognition for law enforcement within the park and recreation profession.   Such creditability helped mitigate the “necessary evil” stigma.

            5.  The Partnership with Advancement -  which was the pathway to success. PLEA enjoyed the position of having many qualified people prepared to lead.  In 1988, it was time for the founders to place their shared dream in the custody of others. 

In closing, I herein take the liberty to deliver a message from the association founders to all of you who have followed us. We are especially pleased with your success and for carrying our dream forward.  Your devotion, hard work, and good conduct brings honor to the park law enforcement profession, each day.  Thanks, thank you, and forever thanks.                                                                

Jerry M. Wimpee, Rockwall County Texas, 2013

Identity Synopsis: Jerry M. Wimpee

Jerry Wimpee is an eight-generation Texan.  He was born in and continues to live in Rockwall County Texas.  Jerry and Sherry have been married for 47 years and are blessed with three children and six grandchildren, so far.  Jerry has been a member of the First Baptist Church for 59 years where he serves as a Deacon. 

Jerry Wimpee began his 48-year public service career with the City of Dallas Park Department. During his 28 years with the city he served as Assistant to the Director, Assistant Director of the Zoo & Aquarium, General Manager of Fair Park, Park Superintendent and Chief of the Dallas Park Police. Additionally, Jerry was an elected Rockwall County Commissioner.  During his 20 years as an elected official, he was the County Judge Pro Tem for 10 years. In 2011 he chose not to seek reelection to the office of county commissioner.  He completed his term of office and then stepped out of the “public arena” effective January 1, 2013.  Jerry and Sherry plan to use 2013 to conclude several deferred tasks, to complete postponed travel, and to consider future possibilities.    

Graduate of: East Texas State University

                        Texas A&M Executive Development Program

                        AZA Biology School - University of North Carolina

                        Leadership Southwest

                        Criminal Justice Program - University of Virginia

                        FBI National Academy

                        Curriculum 2000 - Texas Association of Counties

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