Saturday July 30, 2022
By William Kincaid
Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard
CELINA — Gery Thobe this week wrapped up a nearly 40-year career in law enforcement, a career that has seen the New Bremen native, her husband and father occupy numerous leadership positions within law enforcement. area police and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office.
Thobe, 60, leaves as chief deputy in the sheriff’s office and will eventually relocate to a small town overlooking a Tennessee lake once his house is completed. He will catch fish rather than crooks, as he did earlier in his career as deputy and police chief.
“I will wake up to a panoramic view every morning,” Thobe said.
County Sheriff Jeff Gray said the department is losing a great leader and an asset responsible for important initiatives and a good man who will be missed by many.
Thobe, a kind and humble officer with a lively, self-deprecating sense of humor, had a strong relationship with staff, Gray said. He said Thobe has also become a good friend he can lean on and talk about just about anything.
“He’s done a fantastic job. He’s become not only a good friend but a good adviser,” Gray said, “He keeps me grounded. He’s not afraid to give me a different perspective. He’s not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong and that’s priceless.”
As Chief Deputy, Thobe was largely responsible for managing personnel matters, discipline, policies, regulations, procedures and training.
“Everything comes to the sheriff through the deputy chief,” Thobe summed up.
Among his major accomplishments as Chief Deputy, he founded the Crisis Response Team and Training Program in 2014. Officers undergo training to effectively handle situations involving people in crisis.
“For me, CIT is about dealing with people and talking to people,” Thobe said. “All officers who work here, including correctional officers, will undergo CIT training. All of our patrollers have undergone CIT training. We have taken them first, and then the correctional officers also receive it.”
It was also added as a component of dispatcher training, he said.
Thobe said several years ago that the state was pushing the CIT hard. He was invited by Gray to attend a training session in Troy.
“I went there and thought it was probably the best class I had ever attended,” he said.
Thobe said he was assigned to accompaniments with two social workers who responded to crises in struggling neighborhoods in the Dayton area. Social workers, carrying no weapons or mace, entered volatile situations without law enforcement officers.
From them, Thobe learned the power of talking to people, not them, he said.
Many mental health workers said this made it clear that county deputies were properly trained in CIT.
“I take this as a source of great pride as I have been coordinating CIT courses since 2014,” Thobe said.
Thobe also agrees that CIT has had a profound impact on local law enforcement, noting likely that 45% to 50% of all calls the sheriff’s office receives are about mental health and/or drugs and alcohol. .
“The Tri County Mental Health Board has been a tremendous help as they have stood by us from the first moment we instituted this,” he said. “And they pay for everything. Everything we needed, they helped get it for us. And Foundations has been with us since the very beginning as well.”
The Rapid Response Team is another brainchild of Thobe.
Dressed in civilian clothes and accompanied by a Foundations Behavioral Health Services drug and alcohol counselor and a member of Mercer County Emergency Medical Services, Thobe or another officer attempts to persuade residents who have recently an opioid overdose to seek detox, treatment and recovery services.
“I think there are people we’ve saved over the years, not as many as I would have liked, but I think overall it’s a good program,” he said. declared.
Thobe’s career in law enforcement dates back to his years as a student at New Bremen High School.
“I had a brother-in-law … who worked as a part-time officer for Celina and I developed an interest in the job,” he said.
He maintained that interest even though his guidance counselor thought Thobe was not right for the job.
“He mentioned I might be a ranger,” Thobe said. “You can go around and give the ducks tickets.”
Thobe joined the county sheriff’s office reserves in July 1985.
“It was a group of volunteers. Basically, they went through the same academy as everyone else, but they were people who had retired from law enforcement or were considering entering,” said he declared.
He remembers joining the reserves with Tom Risch, now a Mercer County Veterans Service officer.
“We actually ended up getting to the point where if they were short they needed help, they would call us and ask if we could come in for a shift,” he said.
Thobe and Risch put a stop to a string of burglaries when the two apprehended a pair of brothers at the former Hollister restaurant on State Route 703.
“As reserve deputies, we filed 13 felony (breaking and entering) charges against these people because they had been walking up and down the road for weeks to break in and we caught them,” he said. -he declares. “As a reserve deputy, that’s something you don’t do very often. As a full-time deputy, you can’t catch someone breaking in very often. “
Thobe also worked as a part-time police officer for Mendon and St. Henry before eventually joining the sheriff’s office as a full-time deputy.
“The sheriff’s office was my focus. They paid for my training. I got to know everyone on the reservations and felt like home,” he said.
A few weeks into labor, Thobe was called to the scene of a murder-suicide.
“I walked into the trailer and every bad Stephen King movie I’ve seen appeared in front of me, and a gentleman had decided to take his wife’s life and his own,” he said. .
Nothing can prepare a person for such a grisly scene, he said.
“It’s one of those things where you go out and after it drips, you vomit or cry or whatever else you’re going to do, and then you go on with your day,” he said.
Any officer can probably remember having to tell someone their child died or a loved one died, Thobe said.
“It stays in your mind. It doesn’t go away,” he said, noting that while driving he sees fields where fatal accidents have happened, replaying the scenes in his mind.
Since that murder-suicide, Thobe said he’s probably seen it all, from the routine to the gruesome.
“There were nights where we were arresting four people individually for OVI,” he said. “Luckily the drinking public has gotten a lot smarter – designated drivers, things like that. It’s come down tremendously and I’m happy about that.”
Once full-time in the sheriff’s office, Thobe rose through the ranks. He was appointed to the task force responsible for drug enforcement in 1994 and promoted to patrol sergeant in 1995.
Thobe left to become police chief of Coldwater for about a decade before returning to the sheriff’s office as deputy chief.
Mercer County is in good hands with the sheriff’s office, Thobe says.
“I can’t think of a single deputy in this division or even in the correctional division that I would be worried about having contact with in public or at home. They care,” he said.
Thobe’s departure triggered a major personnel reshuffle. However, Thobe announced his planned retirement well in advance, allowing Gray to consider a roster change.
Captain Doug Timmerman was promoted to deputy chief, Detective Sergeant Megan Baker to captain and Detective Chad Fortkamp to Detective Sergeant, Gray said.
“Really good people, young people who have been in the sheriff’s office for quite a long time, they have experience, but they have a long way to go. So we don’t promote people who, in a year, are going to retire ,” Gray said.