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Each envelope in Jack Guercio’s hands held a small, but to him, precious, gift: police uniform patches from all around the United States — even a few foreign countries — that will be added to the 27-year Harford County Sheriff’s Office employee’s collection.

“It’s like Christmas,” Col. William Davis, the Sheriff’s Office chief deputy, remarked Friday as Guercio and Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler checked out the patches and read letters from well-wishers.

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“It is like Christmas,” Guercio replied as he spread the patches out on a table in the main first-floor conference room in the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in downtown Bel Air.

Guercio, 77, is a civilian employee who has worked at the Sheriff’s Office for 27 years, performing custodial services such as taking out trash and recycling. The Bel Air resident came to the agency through the The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region — the Aberdeen-based organization that has been working to support children and adults with special needs since 1953, according to its website.

The Arc serves more than 330 people, including about 170 adults 21 and older through its employment services division, individuals “just like Jack who are looking for a career, looking for a job that they love, in their skill set,” said Joseph Hughes, director of employment services.

Hughes also visited the Sheriff’s Office headquarters Friday and observed as Guercio and Gahler looked through the patches from local agencies such as the Howard County Police and Baltimore County Department of Corrections, and those from farther away. Patches have come from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, plus the U.S. Capitol Police, sheriff’s offices in Potter County, Texas, and Ulster County, New York, as well as municipal police departments in Fredericksburg, Virginia; Henderson, Nevada; and Northampton, Massachusetts, the campus police at Smith College in Northampton. The pair also found a Royal Canadian Mounted Police patch and a sticker representing police in Bremen, Germany.

Jack Guerico, long time custodian of the Harford County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Bel Air shows a couple of the many police patches and letters he received from around the country and the world Friday afternoon at the Sheriff's Office Headquarters in Bel Air.
Jack Guerico, long time custodian of the Harford County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Bel Air shows a couple of the many police patches and letters he received from around the country and the world Friday afternoon at the Sheriff's Office Headquarters in Bel Air. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

One item that stood out to Gahler and Guercio was a coin from the Capitol Police in the shape of a LEGO figure dressed in a police uniform on one side and in plainclothes on the other.

“How cool is that?” the sheriff asked Guercio.

The patches, sticker and coin are among many items that have been mailed to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office since the story of Guercio’s long employment with the agency and his police memorabilia collection has been reported in local and national media.

“He has just an outstanding respect for the men and women of law enforcement,” Gahler said.

Guercio said he was “always playing sheriff” as a child growing up on Gay Street in Baltimore City. Other children liked playing “bad guys,” he recalled.

His grandparents owned a tomato business in the city — his father was a barber — and Guercio and many of his relatives worked selling tomatoes. Guercio has a photo of himself as a boy standing on tomato boxes, a photo he keeps among other pieces of memorabilia in a desk and closet space set aside for him in the deputies’ work room in the Sheriff’s Office headquarters.

“They all come over and sit and talk with me once in a while,” Guercio said of the deputies.

He has developed close relationships with some Sheriff’s Office personnel. He said Amy Schaekel, a civilian background investigator and former Baltimore City Police officer, has become like a sister to him.

He has family connections with law enforcement, as well. Guercio recalled an uncle who was a Baltimore City Police officer and a Maryland state trooper, and a cousin who was a Harford County deputy. He remembers telling his parents, when visiting his aunt, uncle and cousins in Harford County, that “I wanted to work here [at the Sheriff’s Office] one day.”

Gahler, who was elected to his first term in 2014, said he is the sixth Harford sheriff that Guercio has worked under in his time with the agency. He noted 27 years is longer than many of the sheriff’s office more than 600 employees have been there, and Guercio’s tenure is “half the life” of the headquarters building. The three-story building on South Main Street opened in the early 1960s and underwent a major renovation, which cost about $4 million, starting in 2018; a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in late June.

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“I’ve said many, many times, ‘He has a passion for this office that’s unmatched,’” the sheriff said of Guercio.

Jack Guerico, long time custodian of the Harford County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Bel Air proudly shows his special Sheriff's Office badge given to him by Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler.
Jack Guerico, long time custodian of the Harford County Sheriff's Office headquarters in Bel Air proudly shows his special Sheriff's Office badge given to him by Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Guercio’s dedication was honored earlier this year with his own special Sheriff’s Office badge, which bears his first name, Jack, at the top of the sheriff’s star. Guercio wore the badge around his neck Friday, noting he only takes it off when he goes to bed.

“Is the badge the best thing in your collection?” Gahler asked him.

“Oh yeah,” Guercio replied.

Hughes encourages local employers to contact his agency to find other individuals served by The Arc, people who could have skills and career goals that meet employers’ needs. Visit https://arcncr.org, or call 410-836-7177 for more information.

“Individuals with differing abilities are truly an untapped job market,” Hughes said.

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