On July 8, Jerry Blash was sworn in as Walthourville’s Police Chief, succeeding former Police Chief Bernie Quarterman. The Courier caught up with him on Aug. 16 to see how Blash has been handling his first 30 days.
Within his month on duty, Blash, in conjunction with the Walthourville Mayor’s Office, started the S.A.F.E. — Safety Awareness for Elderly—program. The program gives the police and fire department the names, contact information and emergency medical information of citizens who have signed up. Citizens who are eligible for the program include senior citizens 55 years old and up, and those with mental and physical disabilities. As of press time Tuesday, there were eight to nine people signed up for the program, with Blash personally checking on each person. More information on the S.A.F.E. program can be found on the Coastal Courier website.
Aside from working on the S.A.F.E program, Blash is currently attempting to revive Walthourville’s Neighborhood Watch Program, which has been dwindling in members. Neighborhood watch meetings are usually held the last Thursday of every month at the police station. The next one is set to be held on Aug. 29. Blash stated that members who join the neighborhood watch will be automatically assigned positions. He also mentioned wanting to start a “Citizen’s Advisory Board,” and wants even more groups and committees working alongside the police department.
“The bigger the team, the better off we are,” Blash said.
Blash admitted that his number one challenge so far is staffing. The Walthourville Police Department currently doesn’t have enough personnel for the new police chief to implement all his proposed initiatives. However, thanks in part to recent media coverage of the police department, multiple applications have been coming in, he said. Blash plans to hold interviews within a week, and hopes to have positions such as investigator and sergeant filled within a month. Candidates are encouraged to be police certified. This means that they must complete police academy training, which can take anywhere from 11-18 weeks to finish depending on the school, prior to being hired.
Until additional staff is hired, the police department has been assisted by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office which has taken over the nightshift and lends help when needed, according to Blash.
A video of the Courier’s interview with Blash has been posted to the website.