The Ties That Happily Bind

Retired Delray Beach Police Officer Chuck Jeroloman.

Every year, around Christmastime, I get a text from a retired Delray Beach detective.

“It’s time to meet for dinner at Arturo’s Restaurant in Boca Raton.”

And every year, 5 to 7 of us, retired cops, a retired businessman and one washed-up politician (me) get together to catch up. They even let one retired firefighter attend. That’s a big concession for a police officer to make, but in the spirit of the season the invite is issued and usually accepted.

I look forward to this dinner.

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, this event stands out for its warmth, its meaning and just the genuine feeling of camaraderie you get when you sit with old friends.

Even though we don’t see each other much, time just melts away when you are with certain people and you fall right back into the comfort of a good friendship.

I really admire and in some ways, I am envious of police officers and firefighters. They share a bond that unites them in a very special way.

To be sure, I’ve been blessed with some really special work and office friendships too. But there’s something different about cops and firefighters. It’s a next level connection.

Working in a newsroom, alongside talented writers, editors and photographers was a gift that I will always miss and remember fondly. My current office culture is special too. I’ve worked with incredible people and I am deeply appreciative of that experience and worry about what others who work remotely are missing.

Yes, I know it’s safer and convenient to work from home. It’s liberating as well because you can live anywhere that has an internet connection. But….

But you don’t get the closeness and the magic of what it’s like to see and interact with people every day.

But as special as my work environments have been—the richness and the bonds between police officers and firefighters is something else entirely. They refer to each other as brothers and sisters and they mean it.

When they lose a brother and a sister, they feel it deep in their souls because they shared so many adventures and stories.

As an old crime reporter, I know not all is bliss. There are cliques, divisions, politics and jealousies in police and fire departments. Combined with the stressful nature of the job, the dangers, the responsibility for life and property etc., you can see why many of the retirees are happy to be doing other things after long careers working long shifts. But…

They do miss it.

And oh, the stories they can tell.

I got to be very close with a generation of police officers and firefighters in Delray Beach. These men and women are remarkable.

Some of the newcomers to our community may not know that Delray was a rough place in the 80s and into the 90s too. Some neighborhoods were open air drug markets and there was a lot of drugs, guns and violence.

Remarkably, I was given carte balance to ride along with detectives, fugitive task forces, field training officers and the well-known and much respected “jump out” crews who tackled street level drug sales day and night.

I was a reporter in those days, and I kept crazy hours—riding in the back seat of police cruisers all night and ending with breakfast at a long gone IHOP on North Federal Highway before rushing back to the newsroom to write it all down before I forgot what happened. Over time, the officers I rode with began to trust me.

I strived to be accurate in my reporting. I tried to convey to readers what was happening on the streets of Delray through the eyes of the men and women tasked with serving and protecting us.

When fights broke out—and they did often—the always outnumbered cops waded into the fray. When someone got hurt, the paramedics were called in and were often pummeled with rocks too.

Delray was a long way from the posh, hip and trendy location it has become today. Commissioners didn’t have the luxury of arguing over sea grapes back then. In those days, it was about whether the city would ever turn it around.

I credit our public safety departments with making Delray safe for investment. They are the unsung heroes of Delray’s revitalization because if you don’t feel safe you can’t build community, you can’t attract residents, businesses, and tourists. You have nothing without public safety. Nothing.

So when I see gadflies whining about the costs of these departments I shrug. They just don’t know. Providing top-notch police and fire services is expensive. But it’s more expensive not to do so.

When I was elected to the City Commission in 2000, that was the one subject I felt very secure of  in terms of my knowledge. These officers, detectives, firefighters and paramedics took me to school, and I knew that my job as an elected official was to support their efforts which were bearing fruit. Crime rates went down. The relationship between officers and the community improved; trust was built through a deep and sincere commitment to community-oriented policing. On the fire side, insurance rates went down and we heard story after story of lives being saved because of the efforts of our paramedics.

During this era, Delray Police and Fire  built a robust volunteer network with citizens rolling up their sleeves to make our community safer.

It worked.

It all worked.

Along the way, I became friendly with that detective who organizes the annual Christmas dinner. His name is Chuck Jeroloman. We had New York roots and a mutual passion for baseball in common and we became quick friends.

I first met Chuck when he was on that jump out crew, known officially as the Tact Team. He was a big, strong, charismatic guy—kind of larger than life. But his biggest strength was his relationship skills. He knew how to connect with people.

He became a detective, an expert in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, a union leader and later a very knowledgeable and effective member of the Police and Fire Pension Board. He also served on the SWAT team and  was involved in the department’s anti-terrorism efforts post 9/11. He spent 28 years in law enforcement, 23 of those years serving our city.

Chuck loved Delray and he was always quick to share what he had learned at a conference or through hard won experience.  He also has a great sense of humor in a job where that comes in handy.

When he retired, he moved to Alabama but got a job with a law firm that advises police and fire pension funds. He has been doing that job for a long time now building relationships throughout the country with clients.

He’s going to retire from that position in the New Year to spend time with family. That makes me happy. Despite his latest transition, we are resolved to keeping this dinner an annual tradition.

This year, Chuck brought his son, Brian, to the dinner. And a new generation was introduced to the great stories and warehouse of knowledge that exists when you sit with men like Tom Judge (Delray PD retired) and Perry Don Francisco (former owner of Boston’s on the Beach and co-founder of Delray Citizens for Delray Police.)

Brian is a former UF baseball star who played 11 seasons of professional baseball for the likes of the Nationals, Blue Jays and Pirates. He currently scouts for the Yankees. He has some amazing stories himself and so the circle continues.

The next morning, still flying high from our great dinner conversation, I got a text from another Delray retiree.

“Hey,” I wrote back. “I had dinner with Chuck and TJ last night.”

“Oh man, I love those guys,” my friend wrote back. “Chuck’s wife delivered all of my children (she’s a nurse).”

That’s a link I didn’t know about. Another tie that bonds these people together.

In the history of Delray, there are a lot of men and women who have worked for our city that have quietly done an amazing job to advance this community in ways large and small.

They don’t get a whole lot of recognition, but they are all vitally important.

They are all a big part of the tapestry that makes this a place we can call home.

Many of these people move on after serving—but their hearts remain here alongside their life’s work.

I feel such a debt to these people. I treasure them.

They are invaluable.

They are cherished by those of  us who know what it takes to build something special.


  1. Another great article Jeff. Chuck was one of the first officers I met when I became a member of DBPD. I learned the geography of the city and met Perry Don Francisco thanks to Chuck. Just so happened Perry and I grew up in the city of Worcester Massachusetts. You were a very important member of the city, both as a reporter, commissioner, and mayor. Chuck and many others, both PD & FD played a very important roll in making a change to the city, and making the city what it is today. Thanks to you, Chuck and many other dedicated officers, PD & FD for their efforts. Happy holidays and Happy New Year to all, stay healthy and safe.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Fred, thank you so very much.
      You and Johnny are on my mind a lot these days. Which is great because I feel I like a visit with Johnny whenever I think about him.
      So many contributors…we were building back then. Somewhere along the line we stopped building. We stopped looking forward and started looking back which in our case has not been healthy or productive.
      Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Jeff

      • Jeff,

        After 32 years on DBPD and working through the” tough” years of rocks and bottles and even worse sometimes I can say the Best years were when all of us were working together to make a difference in the communities. I have been retired for 11 and a half years now, still living in Delray and have been disappointed in the city’s direction for several of them. So glad you still write about all of the good times and the great team of first responders who helped put Delray on the map as The Place to be and live.
        I enjoyed working with Chuck and TJ and all the others. I just met 2 DBPD officers in the Community Policing Unit I didn’t know and was impressed with them. We still have the cream of the crop here in Delray Beach first responders.
        God bless, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

        • Jeff Perlman says

          Well said, by someone who truly knows what it takes. Bill your service was stellar and I’m sure glad you stayed in town. Wishing you the best now and always.

  2. Thanks for writing such a poignant and informative article of Delray Beach’s history. We that vacationed, fell in love with and later decided to semi-retire in Delray thank you for your former and insightful Mayorship. You are so fortunate to have built these wonderful relationships.

  3. Jeff – a wonderful summary of years past and the professionals that helped shape the future for the “Village”. Your kind words and insights are especially meaningful and serve as a reminder of the “heavy lift” that was required at that time. And, you are correct…the bond between Fire and Police was part of the formula that many communities seek, but few find. It was part of a culture that isn’t found every where.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Cherished words from an architect of that amazing culture. Thanks Chief. Your contributions are legendary.

    • Greg Wesner says

      Awesome words Jeff. Its alway amazing to me to reflect on just how far Delray Beach has come. I worked CPTED with Chuck until his retirement, and your discription of him couldn’t be more true. I remember the Thanksgiving Day you rode with me when I was assigned to the Palm Trail neighborhood; I m sure that you had better places to be. I live in N Florida now, but Delray Beach will always seem like Home.

      • Jeff Perlman says

        Hi Greg, so great to hear from you!
        Hope you are enjoying North Florida. I remember the Thanksgiving Day ride along. You guys did such an amazing job for Delray. People just can’t imagine the amount of work and dedication it takes, but officers like you and Chuck made it happen and for that we are eternally grateful.

    • You Kerry are among the very best.

  4. Jeff ~ A heartfelt overview of a time when the Police and Fire Department’s worked in unison for the benefit of their respective membership. During those early years, the City Commissioners appreciated and respected the dedication those men and woman exhibited daily. It was my honor, as Pension Administrator, to have worked first hand with Chuck as well as many other trustees who had the foresight and worked diligently and responsibly to provide pension benefits worthy of its members.
    God bless our first responders and their families who support them everyday. Thank you Jeff for your continued support of our first responders.

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