Nearly 30 years ago, Wayne Jerman was among a group of young police officers in Maryland sitting around a table discussing career aspirations.
One of the officers piped up.
“You don’t have to worry about Wayne,” the officer said that day. “He’ll be a chief someday.”
It became a reality on Oct. 29, when Jerman was sworn in as chief of the Cedar Rapids Police Department. He had spent his entire 33-year career at the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland, most recently as one of three assistant chiefs.
A lifelong resident of Montgomery County, the 55-year-old Jerman had never been to Iowa before he and his family visited in August to interview for the job. He said he wanted to be a police chief at a place where he could make a difference.
“It seemed like a great fit, both professionally and personally,” Jerman said.
Those who know Jerman well say he is highly respected for his work in law enforcement and within communities. One former co-worker pointed to an example last winter, when Jerman learned that an organization that helps sick children had lost its bingo caller. Jerman volunteered to take the role every other Tuesday night.
Colleagues also spoke highly of Jerman’s ability to connect with people and build relationships. In 1997, when Jerman was promoted to lieutenant, he developed a special relationship with a custodian named Bob, who has a form of autism. On Jerman’s first day in the new role, Bob stopped into his office and mentioned that his birthday was July 22. It was February at the time, but Jerman offered to take him to lunch on his birthday to celebrate.
On July 22, around 11:30 a.m., Bob walked into Jerman’s office and told him he was ready to go to lunch. It’s a tradition that has lasted 15 years.
“Everyone has a relationship with Bob, but he took it further,” Lt. Darren Francke said. “Every year, without fail, he’s got to take Bob to lunch on his birthday.”
There wasn’t much Jerman didn’t do in Montgomery County. He spent much of his early career in patrol, but also worked in divisions for training and education, police records and even animal services. Most recently, he oversaw all patrol operations as leader of the field services bureau.
Jerman said one of his biggest successes began in 1994, when he assisted in launching a Police Community Action Team. He said the unit made significant progress in “at-risk” neighborhoods by utilizing community policing concepts.
During his time in Montgomery County, Jerman also assisted with several critical incidents, including the “Beltway Sniper” incident of 2002, which ultimately left 10 people dead. In 2010, Jerman helped deploy resources during a standoff with a man strapped with explosives who had taken three people hostage at Discovery Channel headquarters.
“For some people, it’s in their blood, and I’d say he’s one of those people,” said Cmdr. Luther Reynolds, who has known Jerman for more than 20 years. “Police work is in his blood.”
Jerman said his first priorities in Cedar Rapids are to learn as much as he can about the community and his new department. He also needs to hire a deputy chief, a position that has been vacant since Richard Stephens retired in March.
Jerman said he wants to learn and listen before making any big changes to the department.
“I truly feel blessed to have been given this opportunity,” Jerman said. “I’m really looking forward to some great things here.”