As of Friday, Jan. 21, three officers from the Oxford Police Department (OPD) will be leaving the station no longer as employees, but as retired members of the force.
Lt. Robert Holzworth, Officer Ron Brooks and Detective Dennis “Doc” Barter have all been members of OPD for more than 30 years.
Although the men are retiring, they all feel they could still keep working, Holzworth said.
“We all have a lot of gas in our tanks still,” Holzworth said. “I’m excited for retirement, but I love what I do. I hope that I can come back and work for the city part time.”
According to Holzworth, the three retirees participated in a state program called Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).
This optional program is available to officers and firefighters.
“DROP took money from my retirement fund and placed it in an investment,” Holzworth said. “The money must remain in the investment for a minimum of three years, but no longer than eight years. The other men along with myself partook in this opportunity and we are all reaching our eighth year. If we do not retire now, we would be forfeiting a large amount of money.”
Both Holzworth and Barter are excited for retirement but don’t feel entirely ready for it yet.
“I have been working as an officer since I was 19 years old,” Barter said. “It is going to be very different not coming in to work. I am used to the routine I’ve been doing for over 30 years.”
OPD Sgt. Jim Squance said he feels a deep sense of loss.
“We are losing a vast experience,” Squance said. “Their expertise and style of policing will be truly missed. Not only are these men knowledgeable about police business, but they know how to do it in a college town. It takes a special individual to police in a college town, and all three were great at it.”
According to Squance, there comes the good and bad with every situation. The bad is that OPD relies on these men for their certain responsibilities.
However, younger officers will now have the chance to obtain more responsibility.
“Many young officers are looking forward to trying different things and they will get that chance with these older officers leaving,” Squance said.
In terms of hiring new officers, Squance said it is up to the Civil Service Commission. He is unsure of how soon more officers will be hired.
Holzworth said the hiring process can take up to a month and a half. He predicts OPD will start the process in February and new officers will be hired in April or May.
“Any department is going to be affected by people leaving,” Barter said. “A lot of experience is leaving, but I know OPD will bounce back.”
The retirees are dealing with their own feelings about the change.
“This is more than a job to me,” Holzworth said. “It is a calling that we have all found. I love what I do and I am truly blessed to have been here for so long. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve this community.”
Although OPD is losing three experienced men, the department already hired a new officer by the name of Cole. He is a nine-month-old German shepherd who has just joined the force. He will undergo training for 14 weeks before he is put in the field.
Cole is replacing Simon, a police dog that passed away last year.
“Cole and his keeper are out of the schedule until his training is complete,” Squance said. “Dogs are used as patrol dogs, narcotics dogs and for tracking.”
According to Squance, the dogs used for OPD are treated just like officers.
“They all have done a great job fulfilling their obligation to the city, but they need to be replaced once they retire or move on,” Squance said.