After 33 years with GFPD, Lt. Jack Allen is retiring

Jack Allen has worked for the Great Falls Police Department for a quarter of the time it has existed.

After 33 years, March 30 is his last day and Lt. Doug Mahlum is taking over as the No. 2 in the Support Services Bureau, which is headed by Capt. Jeff Newton.

That means some movement throughout the ranks at GFPD as a sergeant will be promoted to lieutenant, a master police officer will be promoted to sergeant and that makes room for a new hire, Allen said. There are five lieutenant spots at GFPD and Allen has spent a significant portion of his career in one of those spots.

Allen had initially planned to retire a few years ago and had run for a seat in the Montana Legislature, so decided to stay in the lieutenant spot.

The Minnesota native had plans to be an aeronautical engineer and work at NASA, but after a year at the University of Minnesota, the “young and adventurous,” Allen decided to be a movie stuntman.

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Jack Allen in his stuntman days. Photo courtesy of Jack Allen

Not knowing to get into such a field, he wrote a letter to the Minnesota Star Tribune, which had a column at the time that answered questions.

The paper took his question and published a response saying he’d have a better chance becoming a player for the Minnesota Vikings, but provided information about the Kahana’s Stunt School.

Allen completed the training, but didn’t make any movies. His stunt school roommate, Randy Hall, made a career of it.

After stuntman training, Allen switched gears and became a photographer for Sears Portrait Studio and moved to North Dakota. Then he did some wedding photography, then insurance sales and moved to Montana. After that it was a traveling photographer for Hallmark Studios. Allen said that over 2.5 years, he shot about 30,000 family portraits.

Then it came time to settle down and Allen wound up in Great Falls. He ran his own photography business for a while, but when that ended, “I needed a job,” Allen said.

The Great Falls Police Department was hiring and someone suggested to Allen that he apply, so he did.

Allen was sworn in with six other officers on April 16, 1985. One of those other officers, Mike Stimac, is now with probation and parole and another is a police chief in another Montana city.

A few years in to the job at GFPD, Allen considered moving home to Minnesota, but met his current wife, Jean, and stayed put.

She was selling insurance and his roommate at the time, Stimac, had purchased a policy from her. Stimac wasn’t home when she stopped by for an appointment, but Allen was.

Jean had gone to Outward Bound in Minnesota as a high schooler and the two bonded over their shared appreciation for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Six weeks later, they were married.

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Lt. Jack Allen and his wife, Jean. Photo courtesy Jack Allen

When Allen started at GFPD, Jack Anderson was the chief, but a goo chunk of his career was under Chief Bob Jones, who is also a former City Commissioner.

Like most cops, Allen started on patrol and was among the first GFPD officers trained in the San Jose model of field training, he said. The model was developed by the San Jose PD in 1971 in response to an event involving a person who may have lacked the proper skills for the job. The model revised an earlier version of a recruit checklist into a 4-month on-the-job training program, according to a best practices guide from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Allen said he remembers his first shift without his training office.

“You know that you’re well-trained,” he said. “You just never know what’s coming next. That’s what makes the job interesting and exciting.”

Allen remembers one call as a rookie patrolman when the GFPD was on the lookout for a woman wanted on a federal warrant.

They had a description of the car and information that the woman might be in town. Allen said he was a new officer thinking, “if I was from out-of-town, I’d check out the new strip mall.” That mall is where the Target is now on 10th Avenue South.

So he was looking for the red Pontiac Cataline with a white top, but strikes out.

Next, he moved to the area by Benefis Health System. He sees a car matching the description, runs the plate but it doesn’t match so he heads back to the station to run the VIN number.

It’s the suspect car.

Allen goes flying back to the hospital, but she’s gone.

Everybody gave him grief for being so close and missing the suspect.

During the next shift, he gets a call for a disturbance in another area and on his way back to his patrol area, he spots the car.

Allen jumps on the radio and says, “guess what I found.”

The FBI and U.S. Marshals and others were coming to the scene, Allen was covering the back. The Marshals knock on the front door and hear them forcing their way in. Then it’s quiet.

The back door opens.

A marshal stuck his head out and said she was in custody.

Allen was on patrol from 1985-91 and worked as the law related education officer and on the patrol swing shift.

“We saw all kinds of action on the swing shift,” Allen said.

He was among the first school resources officers and worked at CMR High. There’s a woman in the GFPD Citizens Academy now who was one of his students then and so was Judge Greg Pinski, he said.

“It was a great, great time in my career,” Allen said.

In 1999, he was promoted to sergeant and went back to patrol. The next year he was promoted to lieutenant and for the first 10 years in that rank he served as the patrol team commander.

For the last eight years, he’s lead the Support Services Bureau. In that position he’s lead the hiring and promotion process and supports day-to-day operations of the GFPD.

Over than time, he hired 43 officers, which is roughly half the department, though some have come and gone in that time.

“There’s a lot of ways I feel that I’m leaving my fingerprints all over the department,” he said. “I get to be a part, in this position, in the start of people’s careers, when they get hired, the middle when they get promoted and the end when they retire. You’re a part of some really significant events in people’s lives.”

Allen was also one of the nine founding members of the GFPD Honor Guard and in 2003, he and then Lt. Dave Bowen’s work with the police in Kyrgyzstan for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “Partnership for Peace” initiative. Bowen is the current police chief. Allen is also the chairman of Friends in Fellowship Great Falls, Inc., which organized the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.

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Over his career, Allen became heavily involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run component of the Special Olympics. For 11.5 years, he was the state director and plans to remain involved.

“That’s been such a blessing to be a part of,” Allen said. “There’s so many negative ways this job can take you.”

The Torch Run “gets you recentered” and has a positive impact on the community, he said.

He’s also been heavily involved in his church and plans to continue that.

“If you made your career all about being a cop, it’s not a good thing,” he said. “It’s an important thing, but there’s way more to life.”

He’s looking at that now, the idea of not being a cop anymore. But he’s staying with the city and moving to a part-time job with the Mansfield box office.

“I’m soon to go to a place where I’m not a cop and I don’t feel like I’m losing my identity,” Allen said.

He’d been looking for a part-time job and wanted something that had flexible hours, would cover the cost of his insurance premiums and be something engaging.

“I started 2018 wondering if this was going to be the year,” Allen said, and then the box office job became available.

He’ll start that job April 2.

Though he’s excited for the new job and change of pace, he said he’ll miss the people at GFPD.

“More than half my life I’ve hung out with these guys,” Allen said. Stimac was the best man at his wedding. He’ll still be friends with many and see them around, “just not part of the action anymore,” he said. “That’ll be different, not being part of that anymore.