PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — After more than three decades, one of Portage Department of Public Safety’s top cops is retiring, leaving a legacy of programs and resources he helped implement at the department and surrounding community.
When John Blue radios his final sign-off Tuesday, it’ll end a career exactly 35 years after the day he started it. But in that time, he wore many hats.
“It’s kind of like stepping off a 3-meter diving board — There’s a little bit of anticipation, a little bit of the unknown. But it’s clear with focus,” Blue explained.
Blue had the same approach with retirement when he became Portage’s first community policing officer in the late 1990’s, a position he considers an “army of one.”
“I had 42 neighborhood watches,” Blue said. “I created a program with all the senior retirement villages, with collaborations with our fire department and an ambulance service, which gained a lot of notoriety dealing with seniors that are in that transition between independent living and assisted living.”
It also helped bolster Bronson’s Safe Kids Coalition and solidify the area’s school resource officer program.
In the 2010’s, Blue also represented Portage Public Safety with the Kalamazoo Area Protect and Connect group, where area law enforcement agencies and Integrated Services Kalamazoo helped bring crisis intervention training and clinician ride-alongs for a more focused approach to mental health-related calls.
“There’s only so much that law enforcement could provide, and it had to go to the next level,” Blue explained. “But now with the clinicians with us, we were starting to see a benefit of that right away and in the in-progress calls too — diffusing, redirecting individuals that were possibly having suicidal ideation or violence ideation from that too.”
Blue also participated in an executive leadership program with the FBI’s active shooter task force, which helped him bring another resource to Portage Public Schools. Following the deadly shooting at Oxford High School, Blue helped PPS administrators implement the Dewey Cornell threat assessment to identify any red flags that may lead to real danger.
“We presented it. They really liked it and adopted it,” Blue said. “We had their institute come out and train all their staff for that key recognition for individuals that are on the pathway to maybe suicidal or violent ideation and the pathway to violence.”
Portage Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bielang said the threat assessment and the family-student reunification plan helped give them confidence in their crisis response policies, thanks to Blue.
“John provided a perspective and a lens that we don’t have in education, so it gave us a lot of comfort in knowing that the plans we’re developing had that expertise behind it,” Bielang said. “He’s been a great friend and a partner to us. He’s been very instrumental in working with our school resource officers.”
Tuesday will end a 35-year chapter of expertise and excellence, filled with gratitude toward family and a stable base throughout the decades.
“I really enjoyed the folks that I worked with and the collaborations I’ve done over the years,” Blue said.
When asked about the takeaways from such a long career, Blue simply answered, “it’s what you make of it and taking ownership of it.”