Colleagues remember longtime officer

Mirror file photo John R. Flinn, who was a police officer in Blair County for more than 40 years, was laid to rest Friday. Colleagues said Flinn was always cheerful and straightforward.

A Blair County police officer laid to rest Friday is remembered by colleagues as a compassionate, dedicated officer who loved his job.

John R. Flinn, 68, died July 1. For almost four decades, he worked the streets as a police officer, first in Logan Township and then after his retirement, for Freedom Township.

“There’s not enough words to say,” said Freedom Township Police Chief Terry Dellinger, who said having a seasoned, experienced officer join the township’s police force after his retirement was great for the other officers and the people in the community. “He’ll be deeply missed by Freedom Township, not just the police department but by the community as well.”

Flinn was working an evening shift a few days before he passed away at UPMC Altoona, his life claimed by cancer.

Dellinger said Flinn was just an easy person to get along with and he was always respectful to people, was dependable, caring and “always cheerful.”

“I’ve never really had anybody work for me that didn’t have someone make a complaint about them, whether it be over a traffic ticket or whatever,” Dellinger said. “With John, I never had any of that.”

Retired Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller worked with Flinn for 36 years, much of that together on second shift and then the last 12 years on the daylight shift.

“When I was chief, if I needed something taken care of, I could count on John to take care of it,” Heller said Friday. “He was straightforward.”

Heller said Flinn had a habit of arriving early to work, something Dellinger said continued at Freedom Township, and he was always meticulous — in his reports, his work and his appearance.

Heller laughed and remembered times when the job would get a little messy or dirty.

“John would go home to get cleaned up, change his clothes and would be back on the streets,” Heller said.

Flinn was quiet, kept to himself, and if he got mad, he rarely, if ever, showed it. “He was a good, decent person to work with,” Heller said. “A good, caring person to his daughter.”

Duncansville Police Chief Jim Ott got to know Flinn first as a young person growing up in Greenwood and then as a police officer. Ott joked that he had a number of run-ins with Flinn in his younger days, when Ott and his friends were “slightly ornery.”

“In my early driving days, John and I had an occasion to meet a time or two or 10,” Ott said, laughing.

Then as a police officer, Ott got to know Flinn through the Blair County Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation as well as the Blair County DUI Task Force. Flinn was an active participant in both.

“John was always pretty fair with people,” Ott said. “If you needed a citation, he gave you a citation. If you needed a lesson, he gave you a lecture, sometimes at a higher volume than others.”

Ott said Flinn’s funeral on Friday was bittersweet, but he was happy officers with the foundation could be there to help give back to Flinn for all the help he was to the foundation over the years.

Flinn retired from Logan Township in 2014, and then started working for Freedom Township later that year. In 2015, he took a hiatus from Freedom Township to step in as interim police chief at Logan Township. Flinn stayed on a month after Chief Tim Mercer came aboard.

“John really helped me when I got here at Logan, to help me with the ins and outs of the department,” Mercer said. “John was the epitome of compassionate policing.”

Mercer said he knew Flinn from his younger days as a state trooper in Blair County, and said Flinn set a great example for younger officers.

“He treated everyone — regardless of whether they were a victim, a witness or suspect — he treated them all fairly,” Mercer said.