GAITHERSBURG, Md. - For the past 61 years, Lt. Thomas Jacocks has been protecting and serving the people of Montgomery County. On Wednesday, his fellow colleagues and friends gathered to celebrate his retirement.
Jacocks is the longest-serving police officer at a single agency in the state of Maryland. Montgomery County’s police chief said he wouldn’t tell other officers they need to be like Jacocks because it would be asking too much of them.
So what has kept Lt. Jacocks going for these past six decades?
“Well, you have to do something every day,” he said. “I'd prefer to do this rather than retire and go do something else.”
He is a man of few words, but his love of the job is clear. Since the age of 6, Jacocks knew he wanted to be a police officer. After spending three years in the Army, he joined the force in 1955 at 22 years old.
Back then, Montgomery County was a different place.
“Only a couple of hundred thousand people then and 180 police [officers],” he told us.
During the past 61 years, police work has changed dramatically. When Jacocks started, the sirens inside police cars were hand-operated.
“They weren't like they are now,” he said.
“The way you got a call, we didn't have radios in the car – they put a big light on top of the courthouse and you would see the light,” said Capt. Tom Didone, who refers to Jacocks as “dad” after being a mentor to Didone for the past 30 years.
Didone said the retiring officer has set an example for the entire force.
“For many years as an executive officer, he wrote the most tickets in this police department for all the officers,” said Didone. “That is the one thing about him – he has always cared about the community, he has always believed in doing what is right, and if you break the law and you don't go to court, he will hunt you down and find you.”
Working on the fugitive squad working on old warrants, Jacocks rose through the ranks at a number of stations and bureaus. He said the one case that will always stand out is “when two officers were killed down by Montgomery Mall back in the 70s.” The slain officers were Capt. James Daly and Cpl. John Frontczak.
Jacocks and his wife raised five children and have several grandchildren. Peggy Jacocks said the sacrifice and comradery on the force is unlike anything you have ever seen. She recalled a time when her husband had heart surgery after complications from a fall while on the job during flooding in Cabin John.
“He came home from the hospital and the place was full of cops,” she said. “They came and they came and they came.”
As officers lined up to shake Lt. Jacocks’ hand on this bittersweet retirement day, Police Chief Thomas Manger spoke about Jacocks' passion.
“This is a guy that up until the end was still out making traffic stops,” Manger said. “If he heard a call come out and he was close by, he would go back an officer up.”
At his retirement party, a special video message from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was played for Jacocks.
The 84-year-old still stays humble to the core. When asked what he thought about hearing all of the wonderful things said about him, Jacocks said, “It's nice of them.”
So what is he going to do in retirement? Jacocks said he will do house work and gardening once the weather warms up. He will also do some work volunteering on the fugitive squad when he can. He said the job is such a part of him that it would be impossible to give it up completely.