PIQUA — Retired Piqua Chief of Police Bruce Jamison officially stepped down this month from a career of 30 years of building relationships and advocating on behalf of victims throughout his different roles at the Piqua Police Department.
“I’ve really gotten to love the citizens of Piqua,” Jamison said.
Jamison joined the Piqua Police Department as a police officer in September 1986. He was promoted to detective in 1989, became a lieutenant in 1999, deputy chief in 2004, and chief of police in 2008.
“The highs were high, and the lows were low,” Jamison said about his experience with the Piqua Police Department.
Jamison said that he “never dreamed” he would have the amount of influence he has been able to achieve in his career.
“It was more than I deserved,” Jamison said.
Jamison also expressed an appreciation and reverence for his fellow police officers, calling them the “most caring people in society.”
“I really think they’re the most loving people in the world,” Jamison said. “They strap on the belt and the badge every day knowing that they are possibly going to have to lay down their lives for somebody that would not do the same for them.”
An officer of many hats
Jamison recalled the beginning of his career as more physical and “hands on.”
“We were just running from fight to fight to fight,” Jamison said.“Over the years, our city has changed, but also policing has changed,” he said. He said that police have found ways to be less hands-on during arrests, reducing injuries to officers and suspects.
Throughout his career, Jamison has been a juvenile officer, child sexual abuse expert witness, and evidence room manager. During his career, he also successfully completed Police Executive Leadership College and became a certified law enforcement executive. As a lieutenant, he acted as an administrative section commander, then a patrol watch commander, and then a patrol bureau commander. As a deputy chief, he also acted as a patrol bureau commander.
“I got to do about everything. Detective was definitely my favorite. I really enjoyed investigating, getting to the bottom of stuff,” Jamison said. He also enjoyed conducting interviews as a detective, “being able to put victims at ease so they can tell the very painful stories of what they have been through and, likewise, working with suspects and obtaining truthful confessions.”
Jamison emphasized the word “truthful,” saying, “I feel like, the cases I’ve worked, I was fair, and I was just as happy to clear somebody who had been wrongfully accused as throwing somebody in jail.”
Of his time investigating sex crimes and abuse for 10 years, Jamison said he was proud to be a part of a different approach taking hold in the early 1990s when it came to investigating and prosecuting those types of cases. He said the process became more friendly toward victims as police took a human services approach with victims rather than simply just facts-gathering.
They also took that approach and applied it to the opioid epidemic. He explained that their approach included trying to help solve some of the underlying issues of drug abuse, involving victim witness advocates, social services, and recovery groups. The department also implemented its HEART — Heroin Education and Addiction Recovery Team — program in 2017, which is composed of police officers, Piqua Fire and EMS personnel, recovery specialists, and faith-based professionals.
“I think we affect real change much more now that we don’t just file a charge and walk away,” Jamison said.
When it comes to the cases he’s been involved in, it’s not necessarily the specific details of what happened during those incidents that he recalls as much as he remembers the people he met.
“I remember the relationships that I’ve built,” Jamison said. While working at the church Fusion, of which his wife Karen is the pastor, he has been able to continue to connect with the people and families he’s met throughout his time with the department.
Cold cases not forgotten
While Jamison emphasized remembering relationships, there are also a couple specific cases that will continue to stick with him.
“I regret leaving before we found Shaylene Farrell,” Jamison said, adding that her disappearance on Aug. 8, 1994, as well as the disappearance of Nikki Lyn Forrest on Sept. 25, 2010 “are things that keep you up at night.”
Jamison was a detective when Farrell, 18, went missing in Piqua on Aug. 8, 1994, when she was last seen leaving her family’s residence on Haverhill Drive in Piqua at approximately 10 a.m. that day.
While Jamison had never met her before, he said her image is one that is etched in his mind. He said she is presumed dead and the department has had a number of false confessions occur with that case, including one man who wrote claiming to have killed Farrell. The department has also investigated and ruled out possible serial killers that web sleuths have linked to Farrell’s disappearance.
Jamison noted that his experience with Forrest’s disappearance in late September 2010 was different as he was chief of police at the time, so he was more removed from the day-to-day investigations. His priorities were making sure the detectives investigating the case had the resources they needed. Forrest was pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and she was last seen in Troy.
Jamison also noted he was one of the last officers in the department who were present the last time Piqua police officers had to use lethal force. He said he had not been with the department for a full year before the incident in July 1987 when officers responded to a report of “a gentleman threatening his girlfriend” who then “grabbed a shotgun and took off out of the house.” Officers fatally shot him after he leveled off at them with the shotgun. None of the officers were harmed.
Jamison said that it was an incident that made him and other officers realize “how vulnerable you are.” He had been there during the incident, and while he was not one of the officers who discharged his weapon during the incident, he was affected with reoccurring dreams about the incident.
“That’s when I learned about PTSD,” Jamison said. Once he understood that it was normal, even for a bystander to deal with post-traumatic stress, the dreams stopped.
He said the department now has procedures in place after high-stress incidents to help officers cope.
“We understand that it’s normal,” he said.
New challenges faced as chief
As a chief, Jamison had to balance getting officers resources while also being mindful of city finances.
“I had to deal with a recession and limited revenues,” Jamison said. “The budget crisis was very real.” He added that he felt like he “was dismantling a really good department” at times.
Jamison was grateful to the community, though, for the passing of the Safety Services Levy in 2014, as well as their support during a time when he thought “law enforcement in general was being vilified across the country.” He said that has made recruiting good candidates for police officer positions difficult.
He said that, despite seeing a negative sentiment toward police officers on a national level, he never felt like the department lost community support locally. As chief, he said it was one of his goals to make sure the department was “truly engaged with the community.”
When it came to the decision of when to retire, Jamison said he felt like 10 years as chief was a good amount of time to affect change and then leave before getting “stale.”
“I’m at peace with this,” Jamison said. “There is great city leadership in place.”
Jamison noted City Manager Gary Huff, saying, “He knows what to do, and he treats people well.”
Jamison is also happy with the appointment of acting Chief of Police Rick Byron. Jamison is encouraging Byron to make the department his own, and Jamison is also encouraging others to support Byron.
“I know he’s going to do some things different, and people need to let him do that,” Jamison said, adding that Byron will be faced with different circumstances and challenges than Jamison. “I think he’s going to be good for the city.”
During retirement, Jamison plans to stay in Piqua for awhile, helping at Fusion, where they work with youth in community, particularly youth in juvenile court and youth who are LGBT.
“I get to watch them support each other,” Jamison said.
New chief takes the reins
Byron was named the new chief of police of the Piqua Police Department in March. Byron will be taking an oath of office during the upcoming Piqua City Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 2, at 6 p.m. in commission chambers on the second floor of the municipal building, located at 201 W. Water St.,Piqua.
Byron joined the Piqua Police Department as a police officer in August 1999 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2012. He has over 23 years of police experience.
On Feb. 8 of this year, Byron became a certified law enforcement executive. This certification was presented to him by the Law Enforcement Foundation and Ohio Associations of Chiefs of Police, and it took a total of 14 months to achieve. This certification is valid for three years with certain qualifications to stay active and re-certification every three years.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.