Christy: ‘Where I wanted to be’

Deputy chief retires from his watch over the city

By Sam Wildow

PIQUA — Born and raised in Piqua, retired Deputy Chief Tom Christy of the Piqua Police Department committed over 35 years to his hometown before recently stepping down from his post.

When asked what got him interested in pursuing a career at the Piqua Police Department, Christy explained that he gave it a chance after an officer who was already in the department encouraged him.

“It’s something … that I think a lot of people think about growing up as to what that would be like,” Christy said about being a police officer. “Quite frankly, I was 18 years old and really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and it just so happened that I worked with the dad of an officer at the time, and he talked to me quite a bit and kind of got me motivated to at least give it an opportunity.”

From cadet to deputy chief

Christy’s experience with the department began in 1980, after the deparment received a federal grant to start a police cadet program. Christy placed first on the test.

“Once I got into the cadet position and started learning as to what law enforcement – at least what current law enforcement was like – at that point, I knew that’s where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do,” Christy said.

The cadet position was a civilian position, so Christy handled non-emergency calls, such as parking complaints or abandoned vehicles. From 1980 to February 1982, Christy worked as a cadet until he was laid off for a couple months. He came back to the department when a position as a dispatcher opened up.

At that time, the department had their own dispatching. Part of Christy’s former cadet duties was to fill in for dispatchers when they were off, so he already knew how to do the job. Christy was a dispatcher from 1982 until 1984, when he was hired on as a police officer.

Christy received his first promotion in 1992, promoting him to the rank of sergeant. Since that time period, the department has changed its rank structure, so he would have been what is now a lieutenant. Christy became a deputy chief of police in 2005.

For Christy, moving to the position of deputy chief of police was a change from his work over the previous two decades.

“It’s a little different because I had spent 22 years in patrol,” Christy said. “People saw me – especially our younger officers – saw me as being a deputy chief. But what some of them didn’t realize was … I spent 22 years in patrol working nights, holidays, every other weekend, doing all those things as either a patrol officer or a sergeant or lieutenant.”

Christy continued working with the department a few years past the point before he was eligible for retirement.

“I enjoyed the job,” Christy said. “I enjoyed what I was doing, felt like I did a pretty good job doing what I was doing, thought we had made some headway.”

Analyzing the issues

Christy noted that he has seen the city change over the course of his career.

“The city as it is today is much different than it was back in the 80s and early 90s,” Christy said. “We had quite a bit of activity back then. The whole cruising era was interesting. The amount of liquor establishments that we had was quite significant in comparison to certain surrounding towns.”

The city of Piqua has since shifted and quieted down more.

“I think the city has calmed down significantly,” Christy said. “And I think a lot of that was part of the strategies that were put in place back in the … late ’80s, early ’90s up to the 2000s, where the department really focused on what the issues were and they analyzed what was causing the problem and tried to address those issues. And I think they’ve had a significant impact.”

Over the course of his time with the department, Christy has worked under five different chiefs of police, including Jim Huffman, Tony White, Phil Potter, Wayne Wilcox, and current Chief of Police Bruce Jamison.

“I think there’s significant style differences amongst the group, but the similarity is that they were all quality people and I think they all had their ideas as to what the department needed to do to progress,” Christy said. “I think the citizens have been very lucky in who we’ve had leading the department over the years.”

Cases leaving an impression

Christy also discussed a couple of cases he took part in that stuck out to him over the years.

“It’s amazing thinking back (on) all the different cases that I’ve been involved in,” Christy said. “There was one, it was back in the late ’80s I believe, when the mausoleum was broken into out at the cemetery.”

Christy was a patrol officer at the time and needed to complete all of the evidence work.

“It was a very significant scene with the damage that had been done inside and the fact that human remains had been stolen,” Christy said. “It was one of those days where it starts off with a bang.

“It turned out, as the day progressed, that I got involved in talking with and dealing with the suspects, and was able to ultimately recover all the human remains that had been stolen. I felt pretty good about that, that we were able to get those remains back to the family for proper burial.”

Christy also handled the large amount of research and planning for the nuisance complaint against Paul’s Bar, formerly located at 204 N. Main St.

“I had gone to the chief, who was Wilcox at the time, and told him that I believed we could use the state nuisance law to make a significant impact on our calls for service at the local liquor establishments, mainly Paul’s Bar because it was … creating a huge drain on our resources at the time,” he recalled.

Christy spent several months compiling the packet of information to give to the city prosecutor at the time. He collected reports on Paul’s Bar from the 1980s to the early 2000s in order to show an extensive pattern of what kinds of activities and incidents had been occurring there.

“We were able to file the nuisance complaint on Paul’s Bar,” Christy said. “That’s one case I thought has had a significant, lasting impression on the city.”

After the nuisance complaint was filed in Miami County Common Pleas Court, Paul’s Bar was shut down in 2007 for approximately a year. The building was eventually sold and demolished.

Unable to serve justice

Some of Christy’s biggest disappointments on the job occurred after 2005, following his appointment to commander over the detective section in the department. During his time in that role, a couple young of children were killed within the city and the department was not able to hold the perpetrators accountable “even though we had a pretty good idea of what happened,” Christy explained.

“That’s one of those things you deal with in different manners,” he said. “There’s a frustration that’s involved and I can honestly say that officers that have been involved in these situations have worked tirelessly trying to solve them or be able to bring charges against people. I know they’ve done as much as humanly possible, we just haven’t been able to get the break needed.”

Christy also mentioned the disappointment surrounding the Nikki Forrest missing person case. Forrest was a pregnant 19-year-old woman who went missing in September 2010.

“We’ve spent countless hours traveling all over the country, bringing in outside investigators in to look over the case to help us out, and unfortunately … we’ve not been able to get a satisfactory conclusion to that case either,” Christy said.

Overall, Christy said that any retired officer will have a case that did not quite get the justice it deserved.

“Any officer that retires will think back and have cases that … his heart felt feeling is that he knows what happened,” he said. “But proving it is something else.”

The department that carries on

The department that Christy is leaving behind is one of officers with children who are younger than some of Christy’s grandchildren.

“There’s been a tremendous change over the last five years,” Christy said. “It’s an extremely young department.”

He noted that the department’s hiring process is “very thorough.”

“We don’t hire just to fill a slot,” Christy said. “As a result of that, I think we’re positioned well for the future.”

Mike Ullery | Daily Call Retired Piqua police officer Jim Palmer, left, chats with recently retired Deputy Police Chief Tom Christy during a recent promotion ceremony in Piqua City Commission chambers. Ullery | Daily Call Retired Piqua police officer Jim Palmer, left, chats with recently retired Deputy Police Chief Tom Christy during a recent promotion ceremony in Piqua City Commission chambers.
Deputy chief retires from his watch over the city

By Sam Wildow


Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall