Breach in the Thin Blue Line

 

HARRINGTON — Admittedly, a simmering anger/frustration within Jerome A. “Jerry” Loveless boiled over when confronting a certain Harrington Police officer on Dec. 9.

An arrest report detailed his profanity-laced harangue toward the officer in a Valero parking lot on U.S. 13. The incident resulted in a felony charge of threatening a public official and a misdemeanor harassment count.

Loveless, a 57-year-old Harrington native and ex-Delaware State Police trooper, wishes now he’d dialed down the aggressive tone before his actions brought charges.

“I shouldn’t have done it and it was totally uncharacteristic of me,” Loveless said last week. “I totally mishandled it at a time when the dad was coming out in me.”

The incident capped what Loveless described as 3 1/2 years of alleged harassment — including low speed drive-bys, stare downs and trailing vehicles — by the officer of him and his son, interspersed with several contacts with Harrington Police Chief Norman Barlow to express his concerns.

Loveless claims he has a photo showing a Harrington Police vehicle allegedly trailing his son closely approximately three to four miles out of town while heading to a Baltimore Orioles game in June 2016. He said he would have taken more if it wasn’t unlawful to use a cell phone when driving.

Jerry Loveless said he’s had several tense interactions with a Harrington Police officer over the past few years. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Eventually, the felony charge against him from December was dropped and the misdemeanor adjudicated as a probation before judgment. A no-contact order with any Harrington Police officer was put in place.

There haven’t been any flareups since the case was finalized. Loveless hopes the interactions between himself, his son and the officer are all in the past.

“As long as he looks the other way and leaves my son alone, I don’t think there will be any other problems,” Loveless said.

Long time coming

The latest fracas was apparently a long time coming. Loveless first met the officer when arrested for a second-offense DUI in August 2013. He claimed their relationship for some reason deteriorated from there.

Describing Loveless as “a friend” and former state trooper colleague, Chief Norman R. Barlow said he couldn’t understand the citizen’s motivations as tension with the officer continued for so long.

“My hope is that they can go out some day and have coffee,” he said. “This has gone on too long. There were a few times when nothing happened for awhile, and then something would come up again.”

The chief believes that “anybody in this city we treat fairly and equally. As far as Mr. Loveless goes we have looked into his concerns …

“We tried to avoid a situation that ended as it did, but I am going to stick up for my people. Jerry knows better than to act like that.

“We have done everything we can do. I don’t know why it continued to escalate.”

Jerry Loveless said his son’s friend photographed a Harrington Police vehicle following them closely out of town for three to four miles before making a U-turn in June 2016. (Submitted photo/Loveless family)

Loveless has filed a complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, but hasn’t heard back yet.

“I believe and hope that the Office of Public Trust will take a look at it. I know they’re at least aware of it,” he said.

On Aug. 5, 2016, Chief Barlow sent a letter to Loveless that stated, “It has come to my attention that on numerous occasions you have come into contact with [the Harrington Police officer].

“It has also come to my attention that on many of these occasions you become belligerent cursing or using inappropriate [gestures] towards [the officer].

“If this continues towards him or any officer of our agency we will pursue harassment charges against you.”

Four months later, police followed through on the warning.

The arrest report described a scenario where the officer said he responded to Loveless in the parking lot after the citizen pointed at him while driving past. Shortly before, the officer claimed, Loveless appeared to call him a derogatory name while both were in traffic on U.S. 13.

The officer maintained “he was not sure if Mr. Loveless could have possibly been attempting to flag him down for a police matter or not, so he turned into the parking lot as he was the only officer assigned to handling complaints that day.”

Reviewing the incident

The officer activated his vehicle video recorder due to past interactions with Loveless, according to court documents. The incident was recorded as what turned out to be evidence.

Chief Barlow said he reviewed the recording and turned to the Attorney General’s office to consider charges that were eventually filed.

While saying he “doesn’t have a problem with anyone else” on the Harrington Police force, Loveless said he’s disappointed in the alleged behavior of the one officer.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

Loveless said he took responsibility for his recent plight, and referenced his state trooper background when putting his point of view into perspective.

“I’ve done my very best at apologizing, and accepting my penalties for my actions,” he said.

“It was also embarrassing for me and my family. As I said, if you take the personal attack on my son out of the situation I would have handled myself much differently.

“As a state trooper I was very professional and composed. I was never disciplined for any sort of violation of rules and regulations as a trooper.

“Wearing that uniform and representing the Delaware State Police meant the world to me. DSP is one of the finest law enforcement agencies in this country.

“I’m very proud to say that it was truly an honor to serve with them. I learned a lot about respect, discipline, honesty, and accountability while attending the DSP academy and serving with my brothers and sisters in blue.

“I know that members of DSP have (learned of the arrest). I’m sure that most of them will not be surprised at the situation that I’ve experienced with HPD.

“I just hope that (the arresting officer) and members of HPD leave my son and I alone.”

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.