DPS officer goes off duty

Jennings retires from DPS after 35 of serving Big Rapids

BIG RAPIDS — Putting himself through school at Ferris State University as an emergency dispatcher, Sgt. Jeff Jennings didn’t always intend to become a police officer.

In fact, it wasn’t until the college eliminated the public administration major — the one Jennings was pursuing — that he considered studying criminal justice, a decision influenced in part by his work as a dispatcher.

OFF DUTY: Sgt. Jeff Jennings will retire from Big Rapids Department of Public Safety on Jan. 27, after serving the department for 35 years. (Pioneer photo/ Whitney Gronski-Buffa)

“When you first start, you have these ideals — at least I did — about helping people out. You find police work is about trying to help people out, but that there’s also times when they don’t always want your help,” Jennings said, laughing.

Now, 35 years later, Jennings is retiring on Jan. 27 from the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, where he has spent the entirety of his career since being hired in as an officer in 1976 at the age of 25.

In retirement, Jennings, who serves as the department’s administrative sergeant, said he’s looking forward to spending time with his family and perfecting his golf swing, but he’ll still have a presence in the department, as he’ll continue to work with Ferris State University as a police driving instructor.

“I can’t just start doing nothing. I won’t be able to just sit around,” Jennings said. “I’m sure there will be things for me to do. I’ll continue my work as a driving instructor like a lot of other retired officers.”

Jennings already was a well-established officer in the department by the time DPS director Frank West was hired.

West, who retires next month, said Jennings has been one of the stable influences in his career.

“He’s been a pillar of the department,” West said. “The unique thing about Jeff is that he’s still current. People still go to him for things and he still makes great decisions.”

Although Jennings said he’ll miss his department co-workers when he leaves, he’ll also miss having the daily opportunity to affect the community in a positive way.

“There’s situations you can do good in,” Jennings said. “You can make a decision to help somebody out. We can make an arrest and be solving a problem. … We’re just making the city a little safer to live in.”

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Posted by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

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