A teacher. A mentor. A friend. A man who loved his officers as much as he loved his community.
These were the words most often used at Friday's funeral service to describe El Paso Police Department Chief Greg Allen as family, friends and colleagues came together to honor his life.
El Paso Police Department Sgt. Robert Gomez, who serves as a spokesman for the police department, has been in front of television cameras and interviewed hundreds of times, but today was different. He held back his emotions as he discussed the impact Allen had on him, the police department and the El Paso community.
"I started in the department in 1997," Gomez said as he paused between every other word. "My first lieutenant in the department, my first boss was (then) Lieutenant Allen."
Allen's life was celebrated Friday during a funeral service at Abundant Living Faith Center, 1000 Valley Crest Drive, followed by a procession and interment at Evergreen Cemetery East, 12400 Montana Ave., in far East El Paso.
The day was emotional but none so more than the last radio call "End-of-Watch" was performed at the cemetery. Allen's name and badge numbers were called over on a police radio but met with just silence - marking the end of a 44-year career of serving the El Paso community.
"I still remember talking to him on the radio," Gomez said as he held back tears. "I still remember his calls, his name. So that last call going unanswered was very difficult to hear because it seals the reality that we won't see him until we join him later on."
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El Paso City Rep. Henry Rivera, a former police officer who worked alongside Allen, said he was "always a teacher and mentor to everyone he came across."
"He was a unique individual, well loved, well versed in law enforcement," Rivera said. "He dedicated his life to law enforcement and most importantly, for his community - the city of El Paso - to make sure everybody was safe and make sure that we were on top of our game as a department."
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Allen leaves behind a legacy of strong leadership and a commitment to serving the El Paso community, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said.
"He not only used his words to demonstrate what kind of leader he was, but his actions reflected what kind of leader he was," Gonzalez said. "And that's very rare in today's environment when everyone wants to be politically correct. He was more focused on being a good leader and being a good example to others."
A day of remembrance, celebration
The day started at Sunset Funeral Home, where dozens of El Paso Police Department motorcycles escorted Allen to Abundant Living Faith Center. As the procession drove along North Loop Drive, law enforcement officers lined the roads saluting Allen.
Students from Alicia R. Chacón International School, a kindergarten through eighth grade school in the Ysleta Independent School District, stood in front of their school holding a large sign which read, "End of Watch 1-17-23" and "Chief Allen." The sign was adorned with hearts and a U.S. law enforcement flag.
The procession then arrived at Abundant Living Faith Center, where hundreds of law enforcement waited for Allen and his family. A giant U.S. flag hung from an El Paso Fire Department truck. As Allen was carried into the church, law enforcement officers from all agencies stood at attention and saluted the casket.
Pastor Charlie Floitus, a police chaplain, approached the podium during the Mass, fighting back emotion and offering condolences and thanks to Allen's family.
"When I think of Chief Allen, the one thought that keeps coming to mind is how real he was," Floitus said. "He was genuine. He was as real as real could get. And he'd be the first to say that he wasn't a perfect man, but who of us is?"
Floitus said Allen worked diligently to make the El Paso Police Department among the best in the nation, an effort that paid off as El Paso continues to be ranked among the nation's safest major cities.
Allen was a husband, a father and a grandfather to eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Patrick Pelletier, a retired police officer, recalled during the Mass the day he met Allen in 1988 on his first day in the academy. He remembered years later Allen inviting him to lunch and asking if it would be alright to ask his sister out.
"I never dreamed the guy that gave us all nightmares in the academy would be my brother-in-law," Pelletier said. "Greg was a legend long before he became chief of police."
Allen was the first Black police chief in El Paso and his wife, Rosanne, is white.
Pelletier continued, "thank you for taking good care of my sister."
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After the Mass, a procession of hundreds of law enforcement officers, family, friends and community members led by more than 50 police motorcycles proceeded to Evergreen Cemetery East.
As the procession drove through far East El Paso, it was met by fire trucks flying large U.S. flags on the overpasses on Loop 375. Dozens of law enforcement lined up on the median of Montana Avenue.
Across the cemetery, deputies were lined up waiting for the procession at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Complex.
By the time Allen arrived at the cemetery, thousands of law enforcement officers throughout the region and state had said farewell to the chief of police.
Police officers were called to attention and saluted as drums and bagpipes played upon the arrival of the hearse carrying Greg Allen's casket. It was still draped in the flag.
The cemetery ceremony included a 21-gun salute and a presentation of the flag to the chief's family. Forty-five doves - 44 for the years he served in the department and one to represent Allen - were released by Allen's family in his honor.
The salute ended El Paso's two-day memorial bidding Allen farewell.
"I like the community to know that first and foremost, Chief Allen loved his police officers," Gomez said.
"He loved his community. He loved his officers. And in loving them, he taught us to honor our oaths, respect our badge, respect our powers, and to treat everybody with respect and kindness."
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso police Chief Greg Allen remembered as mentor, friend