The praise was widespread, and the plaques and gifts many on Tuesday as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies gathered at the headquarters of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to pay tribute to Chief Dan Isom.
Isom is retiring in January to take a position with the criminology department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Isom, who has been chief since October 2008, has his bachelor's, masters and doctorate from the school.
"I'm trying to figure out how a guy younger than me gets to retire," said St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch. "I'm sad. It's almost like I'm getting a divorce from somebody, or a death. That's how close that we've become. Dan has been a wonderful partner to have."
Isom was appointed chief after the retirement of Joe Mokwa, who became embroiled in a scandal involving a company contracted to tow cars for the department. Mokwa was never charged, but a former detective, Kevin Shade, spent almost two years in federal prison for his role in the scandal.
Lt. Col. Tim Reagan, Isom's chief of staff and a potential successor, says Isom was the person the department needed at that time.
"Because of his attitude and character, this department has not been embarrassed during his tenure," Reagan said. "There have been several tough issues arise, but his prompt and thoughtful action has preserved the integrity of this department and averted any potential dishonor."
Isom spent time in several posts before rising to chief, including in five of the city's nine patrol districts, Internal Affairs, and the Police Academy. He was also active in the Ethical Society of Police, serving several executive roles. The Society made him a lifetime honorary member.
"One thing I found, and I didn't appreciate it as much before I became chief as I do know, is that we do have one of the best police departments in this country," Isom said. "We've got some of the best men and women in this country as police officers, and I'll put us up to any police department in the country."
Isom's sister Dana is on the force. He met his wife, Virginia, at a party celebrating his graduation from the academy. Her father, the late William Brown, was the chief of detectives for the department.
The Board of Police Commissioners will pick Isom's successor. Eleven officers, who must have the rank of captain or above and live in the city, have expressed interest in the position. (There were initially 13 interested. One dropped out before names were made public, and Capt. Ronnie Robertson withdrew later).
Here's a summary of remarks from civic leaders and law enforcement officials, many of whom praised Isom for cooperating with their agencies and for a reduction in crime in the city:
Mayor Francis Slay: "I was part of the Police Board that chose Dan Isom for chief, and he did rise above when he applied for the position and he did so as well as chief of this department. I am proud to have been able to serve with Chief Dan Isom. He led the effort through this department to reduce crime by 27 percent."
Tom Irwin, a member of the P0lice Board and the head of Civic Progress: "Obviously, it's important to the business community who's running our police department. Before you were selected, I called Col. [Tim] Reagan (Isom's chief of staff) and said, tell me what's going on. And he said that Dan Isom would be the perfect guy for this job. And you have been the perfect guy for this job."
Tim Feeney, assistant special agent in charge, St. Louis FBI office: "I'd like to thank the board and anybody who happens to be in the room who afforded Chief Isom to be in this position. I was here when you were installed in the chief position, and what I can say is that you were the right man for the right job at the right time." (Feeney has been in St. Louis with the FBI since 2007. The Bureau investigated the scandal in which Mokwa was involved.)
Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen and mayoral candidate: "You think about what it means to be a police officer. It's not a job. It's a calling. And I indeed am so thankful that you answered that calling 24 years ago and have served well."
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