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Chief Jimenez laid to rest

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Known as the father of the Lincoln Police Department’s community policing activities, Chief Robert Jimenez, was laid to rest July 16 at the Lincoln Cemetery. “He was the epitome of community policing,” said Lincoln City Councilwoman Linda Stackpoole, whose father was a lifelong friend of Jimenez. Jimenez died in the early hours of July 7 in Auburn at age 87, according to family members. With 32 years’ service as Lincoln’s chief of police, Jimenez brought the department from a two-officer force in 1947 to a force that included seven full-time officers and several reserve officers by the time of his retirement in 1979, according to Bob Barroso, who served with Jimenez and later became chief of police. “He treated everybody on an equal plane,” Barroso said. Since he knew just about everybody in town, according to Barroso, he didn’t have to deal with a lot of red tape. “If someone needed help with alcohol problems or anything like that, he would call up someone he knew and say, ‘I have a person who needs help,’ and he would get that help.” One person who spoke at Jimenez’s funeral was Ed Ojeda, who credits Jimenez with saving his life. Ojeda said he had trouble with alcohol and marijuana in his youth, and was frequently in and out of jail. “He always pulled me into his office and said, ‘Ed, what’s wrong?’ ” Ojeda said. “He never gave up on me.” When Ojeda faced serious consequences from drug abuse, Jimenez put in a good word with the judge, vouching for Ojeda. “I’ve been sober now from drugs and alcohol for 38 years because the chief stood behind me,” Ojeda said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have ever seen 30 years old.” Oftentimes, when Jimenez caught youths breaking the law, rather than throw throwing the book at them, Jimenez would drive them home to their parents. “If he talked to you and thought you were sincere, he’d give you a break,” said Councilwoman Stackpoole, who admitted to getting at least one break in her youth following a night of partying when the chief had ordered her to take her friends home and then stay home herself – after which she got back in her car, picked her friends up and went to Roseville. Jimenez wasn’t fooled, but didn’t tell her father. “It was really a good era,” said Jimenez’s former son-in-law, Rick Harder. “It was a great time, and he was a great man. He was the longest-serving police chief in the history of the U.S.” Jimenez’s pioneering of the idea of community policing is still seen today in the Lincoln Police Department, according to Chief Brian Vizzusi, who said Jimenez left big shoes to fill. Programs like the Police Activities League, Redirect and meet-your-officer meetings are all echoes of the community policing spirit refined during Jimenez’s tenure. Despite all the hours Jimenez spent helping others in the community, he still made time for his family, and that never wavered. Jimenez managed to be at every basketball game of his grandson, Conrad Harder, who said the chief was his good luck charm. Jimenez’s nephew, Jeff Colbertson, said the chief was a hero. During World War II, Jimenez served in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army, meeting the legendary officer on at least one occasion. He was later decorated for saving his fellow tank crewmen after their tank was hit by enemy fire near Anzio, Italy. Through all of his service – both as a soldier and police chief – according to Jimenez’s daughter, Dana Jimenez Harder, Jimenez loved his country. “He was the most patriotic man I ever knew,” Jimenez Harder said. Jimenez’s cremated remains were laid to rest in the Lincoln Cemetery at 1445 First St. in Lincoln. “I want to thank everyone for all the love they showed to Dad,” Jimenez Harder said. “I want to confirm that he loved them as much. Every time he saw someone from the old days, his eyes lit up. He was friends with them to the end.” For more information about “The Chief,” please refer to the July 9 issue of the Lincoln News Messenger. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.