BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Maumee Police Chief Jim MacDonald will retire after 30 years of service in Maumee.
A pension rule based on age and service necessitates that the 61-year-old police chief should retire. His last official day on the job is Friday, November 16 and Maumee City Council accepted his resignation at the September 4 meeting.
“Police officers are tight,” said MacDonald. “The camaraderie and friendships that I have grown to respect here and enjoy is really one of the biggest things that I’m going to miss. I just enjoy the job, I really do.”
MacDonald was born in Canada and moved to the United States in 1970. Fulfilling a lifelong desire to pursue a career in law enforcement, he attended The University of Toledo and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, then a master’s degree in public administration. He also graduated from the Police Executive Leadership College.
In 1988, he joined the Maumee Police Division as a patrol officer. He has also served as a field training officer, background investigator, D.A.R.E. and crime prevention officer, firearms instructor and negotiator for the special response unit.
He was promoted to sergeant in 2001 and lieutenant in 2012. In 2013, he was named chief of police, replacing Bob Zink, a 36-year veteran of the department.
In his letter to council, MacDonald said that moving the department forward in the areas of technology, efficiency, transparency, preparedness, accountability and community engagement were most important when he took over the job.
“I am confident we have made advancements in all of these areas,” he wrote.
As chief, MacDonald believes that is it important to abide by certain core principles, which not only guide his behavior, but have also guided the department staff, as well.
“For me, it was justice, service and fundamental fairness. I think those have been the three principles,” he said. “I believe it and I think my officers really do personify that and I am proud of that.”
The highlight of his career happened in 2014, when he attended an 11-week training program at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. The rigorous FBI program included advanced investigation, management and fitness training provided by the FBI Academy instructional staff, special agents and other experts. The program culminated with a graduation ceremony in which then-FBI director James Comey was the principal speaker.
“We just got exposed to a lot of staff and command and leadership training, which I think is some of the best in the world,” MacDonald said. “Individuals from 30 countries participated in the training there.”
Lt. Dave Tullis has worked with MacDonald for 30 years and described him as a very dedicated officer who realized that there was much more to police work then enforcing the law.
“He knew that the majority of our job was service to our community,” said Tullis. “He has been a proponent in making sure that MPD (Maumee Police Department) has a positive connection with the community.”
That type of connection happens through long-established programs, such as D.A.R.E and Safety City, as well as newly implemented programs, including Senior Outreach, in which a police officer makes visits to senior citizens who live alone. Those types of programs establish the kind of trust that allows officers to do their jobs, said MacDonald.
“Our response time is very short – we get places very quickly,” he said. “We patrol all corners of the city, not just the main streets. We walk the parks and we walk the uptown area. We are out there visible and connected, and when you do that, you have a strong support from citizens.”
Tullis agreed, saying that working hard and striving to do better are hallmarks of the lessons he has learned from time spent working for MacDonald.
“We hold ourselves and others accountable to perform the job and make sure that we can provide the best service – that has always been important to him,” said Tullis.
The department consists of 42 sworn officers, 13 dispatchers, three administrative support personnel and one animal control officer. Keeping the department’s $6.5 million budget balanced has also been a priority. MacDonald successfully accomplished that, but he said he could not have done it without the staff working diligently and understanding the department’s priorities.
There are many new challenges facing today’s police officers, including drug addiction, terrorism and school safety.
“Those are big challenges. The profession as a whole, how they have been portrayed by the media, is tough to overcome and that’s why I revert back to those three principles, because if you are practicing those things, then you are doing the job right,” he said.
He extended his appreciation to Maumee City Council, which he said has continually funded training, equipment and technology.
Maumee Mayor Richard Carr said MacDonald’s retirement comes at a loss to the city.
“I do not think we could ask for a better police chief for our city than Jim MacDonald. He has been outstanding,” Carr said. “The way he interacts with the community is better than expected. We couldn’t ask for a better representative of the city of Maumee.”
Carr would be in favor of re-hiring the chief, but he said council members have expressed disinterest in setting that precedent. He said a committee will be formed to hire a new chief, and while he prefers to promote from within the department, the position will be open to all applicants.
Upon retirement, MacDonald plans to spend time with his wife, children and four grandchildren.
Seven years ago, he also obtained his Coast Guard captain’s license, and has been working as a part-time fishing charter captain on Lake Erie. He may continue to work on the charter boat or even serve as a ferryboat captain, depending on what opportunities come his way. In typical style, however, MacDonald said he has no plans to rush into any major decisions when it comes to how he ultimately decides to spend his retirement days.
“I plan to just reflect and relax. I will reset my thoughts and see what opportunities arise,” he said. “I think it’s better to be patient. Sometimes it’s better to just sit back and wait and slow down and look at all sides of a situation before we have an answer.”