Collier chief prepares to say goodbye after 37-year career
One of the most difficult decisions Collier Police Chief Thomas Devin has made recently was not the decision to retire, but rather the decision to return to work.
Devin, 64, was diagnosed late last year with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the lymph nodes.
“I knew I had enough (sick) time that I could take off until retirement,” he said.
He spent a month in the hospital shortly after his diagnosis, he said, but then began putting in half-days.
“But I kind of missed it,” he said about the job. “It gave me something else to think about.”
Devin will officially retire July 31. Last week, Collier commissioners voted to hire Pittsburgh city officer Craig Lee Campbell as the township's new police chief.
He said being in the department and talking with his officers helped him. He said he feels at home there.
He should – Devin has been with the department for nearly 40 years.
Devin joined the department in 1977, seven years after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army.
“I had taken the (civil service) test at different places, and when I got to Collier, I decided, ‘This is the last one – if it's not here, I've taken so many, it's just not meant to be,'” he said.
He was hired on April 1, and the irony is not lost on him.
“I keep waiting for them to tell me that this is a joke, and I haven't actually been doing the things I've been doing,” he said.
One of those things was helping to modernize and update the department once he became acting chief, then chief, in 2007. He updated the department's rules and regulations, audited the evidence and property rooms and got mobile data terminals for the patrol cars.
“He involved the officers in the process of that evolution. We all felt like we had an investment in this place,” said Collier officer Eric Davis. “These were things that were all new to our department. He's always stood behind us to give us the ability to perform our jobs the way they need to be done.”
Devin helped implement the school resource officer program in the Chartiers Valley School District. Two Collier officers and one Scott officer are stationed among the district's three school buildings.
He previously worked in the district as a DARE officer, and he said he was happy to have a positive police presence back in the schools.
“I liked having the kids see us in a different light. It gave them a different idea of police,” he said.
He said he also made it a point to bring the department closer together. When he became chief, he and his wife began hosting a Christmas party for the officers and their families.
Davis called the parties legendary.
“He and his wife are just beyond generous for what they would give to us,” he said. “He brought it beyond the employer-employee relationship. At one point in time, there were so many kids there, you couldn't walk around.”
Thirty-seven kids, to be exact, Devin said, and Santa would always make an appearance.
“One of the hard things as chief is you have to be a little different than when you were a patrolman,” he said. “At the Christmas party, I could relax, take it easy and kid around.
Devin – who will turn 65 on Sunday – said he is both excited and not excited for retirement.
“I will miss the people,” he said. “Some of the other things, well, I'm not going to miss. But I will miss the people.”
He said he is not sure what he will do in retirement. He and his wife live in New Sewickley and have two grandchildren. He said they plan to stay in the area.
“There were good times, and there were bad times,” he said. “I think the good times far outweighed the bad. It's just time to let someone else sit in the chair.”
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.