Al Gillen recognized for going above and beyond with Port Arthur Police for more than 4 decades

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Al Gillen’s 42 years in law enforcement goes deeper than keeping the streets safe.

Port Arthur City Attorney Valecia Tizeno summed it up easily saying sometimes people won’t remember anything about you but the way you treated them and the way you made them feel.

“And I just want to thank you for the way you have respected the citizens of Port Arthur and helped the staff through all these years,” Tizeno said during a brief ceremony in honor of Gillen’s recent retirement.

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City leaders named Sept. 26, 2023, Al Gillen Day in Port Arthur.

Gillen became an officer with the Port Arthur Police Department Oct. 6, 1980.

Tizeno harkened back to Hurricane Harvey, which flooded the city and how “everyone was in a panic.”

She count of the number of times she called Gillen, directing him to this house or that house to rescue people, all while Gillen kept telling her to “stay calm.”

“I wanted to emphasize particularly on that occasion (recognition of service) and always how you really went out of your way to help people, and we greatly appreciate everything that you’ve done for this city and thank you for your years of service,” Tizeno said.

Thomas Kinlaw III can attest to the rescues. Kinlaw, a councilman for the city, along with his wife and Gillen rescued people off the streets during the storm.

“And you never complained, man. That takes a different type of person, never once complained,” Kinlaw said. “You were feeding people off the street that were coming into the pavilion that you didn’t even know, and that testifies to what kind of person you are. I kind of get choked up because I was there with you. I don’t care what nobody says, you are out there beating the streets almost every day and when other entities came into the city of Port Arthur and try to disrespect them, you stood up.”

Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis recalled a program years ago to clear bushes around trees, thus allowing residents a clear line of sight. Instead of city money, Gillen volunteered to do the work.

“Al said don’t worry about budgeting. I’ll get it done. He cleared all our alleyways and cleared all the underbrush,” Lewis said. “I wanted District 1 to look like Gilham Circle, where you can see all the way across.”

Through the 42 years of service to the city, Gillen has been part of a number of programs, received four citations and 53 letters of commendation.

Part of his duties included working with the state and federal inmates over a work release program.

Councilman Harold Doucet looked at Gillen with a smile and asked “who’s going to watch the prisoners now that you’re gone?,” to which Gillen said, with a chuckle, “you are.”

Soft spoken City Secretary Sherri Bellard talked of her first days with the city 20-plus years ago and how she kept hearing of this nice “Big Al,” then one day he came in and gave everybody a big hug.

“You made me feel like a part of a family when I came here,” Bellard said. “And I feel that you have made every day that you have been here a better one for all of us. And all I had to do was see your face on any given day, whether it was hard or not, a day that we didn’t want to face or not and you gave me courage.”