Historic City News reporters joined a crowd of well-wishers this morning for the naming ceremony at the Neil J Perry Criminal Justice Complex, including comments for members and friends of the Perry family delivered by men who had known Perry — as a soldier, policeman, deputy, and sheriff; and even one who never knew him; County Commission Chairman Jay Morris.
Sheriff Perry was born in St Augustine on May 19, 1945 and as a native son, he dedicated his life to his family and our community. He began his law enforcement career as an auxiliary officer with the St Augustine Police Department in 1968 and in 1974 became a member of the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Perry served as a patrol deputy and detective until 1984 when he was elected Sheriff of St Johns County. He was re-elected four times, serving a total of five (5) terms as Sheriff, retiring in 2004. He remained a part of the SJSO family as a reserve deputy even after his retirement.
He attended St Augustine High School, was a graduate of St Johns River Community College, and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Nova University. He continued on to graduate from the FBI National Academy, the FBI Criminal Justice Executive Institute’s Chief Executive Course, and the US Army Command and General Staff College.
Sheriff Perry understood the value of education and professionalism within the law enforcement profession and it was his vision that led to the establishment of the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation and the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute. The Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation is now an international association with the goal of ensuring consistencies in practice and policy for all law enforcement agencies. Each year the Commission presents the Neil J. Perry Service Award, honoring individuals and work teams for outstanding achievement. Sheriff Perry also co-founded and served as Chairman of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, which serves law enforcement executives throughout the state in furthering their professional development. Prior to the founding of this Institute, there was no one source for ensuring that the leaders of our state’s law enforcement agencies received the latest methods and training necessary for operation of their respective agencies.
During his tenure as Sheriff, Sheriff Perry served the County and State with distinction as Chairman and past president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, Chairman of the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, Chairman of the Northeast Florida Investigative Support Center, President of the Law Enforcement Private Security Council, and Co-chair of the Northeast Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force.
However, his service was not limited to the law enforcement profession; he was also committed to serving his community through civic involvement. He was a past president of Kiwanis Club, member of the Ashlar Masonic Lodge #98, a recipient of the Outstanding Young Law Enforcement Officer award given by the St Augustine Jaycees, a recipient of the Lifetime Public Service Award given by the Democratic Woman’s Club, Chairman of the Friends of Scouting District Dinner, and a recipient of the Lifetime Public Service Award given by the Democratic Woman’s Club, chairman of the Friends of Scouting District dinner, and a recipient of the prestigious Guardian De La Puerta Award given by the City of St Augustine.
Sheriff Perry’s family was the backbone of his success and along with his wife Syd, he enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. Additionally, he earned the love and admiration of his “second” family, the employees of the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office. Many owe the success of their own career to the mentoring and support of Sheriff Perry.