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Retired Gainesville police chief reorganized department, advocated for officers
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Jerry Forrester

The first chief to get his officers ballistic vests and ammo covered by the city, retired Gainesville Police Chief Jerry Forrester, died Monday. He was 72.

A Marine serving 13 months in Vietnam, Forrester returned stateside and joined the city police department in 1968. He became police chief in 1985 and retired in 1991.

Retired Capt. Chad White said Forrester was a humble, loyal and dedicated man who “laid a good foundation for others to follow.”

“He was one of the most honest men I’ve ever known, and I know he certainly left a great legacy of integrity and respect for all officers to come,” he said.

Overseeing a department of 65 sworn officers, Forrester worked to get ballistic vests and ammo paid for by the city as well as better pay. He also reorganized the department into three divisions with separate division commanders.

A May 1988 article in The Times said it would cost roughly $900 to outfit a Gainesville officer with the necessary uniform equipment.

White said Forrester was responsible for bringing “the police department up to modern age or modern policing at that time.”

“Up to that point, officers were furnishing their own weapon and furnishing their own ammo,” he said.

Retired Chief Frank Hooper said Forrester was a leader he tried to emulate — the head of a department championing better equipment and training while still making time for the occasional department softball game.

"He was chief of police, but he also knew when it was time, I guess, to be kind of one of the guys," Hooper said.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, in the Memorial Park Funeral Home chapel.

Hooper, White and the Rev. Jack Sanders will officiate. Interment will follow in Memorial Park Cemetery.

The family will receive friends at the funeral home 2-4p.m. p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30.

“Chief Forrester was a distinguished leader, not only for Gainesville but for our great nation. He left a lasting legacy that will never be forgotten,” Chief Carol Martin said in a statement.

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