GRPD Chief prepares for retirement
March 16, 2023
After three decades serving and protecting the people of Green River, Chief of Police Tom Jarvie is taking off his badge. Jarvie, who has been the chief the past five years, will be retiring within the next month.
Years of service
Jarvie, who grew up in Green River, has been with the GRPD for a little over 31 years, having started in 1991.
"I was fresh out of the military," Jarvie explained. "I actually interviewed here three days after I got out of the army in North Carolina. It was a long drive and a quick interview."
That quick interview led to five years as a patrol officer. Jarvie then spent one year in the evidence tech and public relations position before going back to patrol when he was promoted to Patrol Corporal, which he did for about four years. Around 2000, Jarvie was promoted to a Sergeant position, serving one year as a Patrol Sergeant, then transferring over to Detective Sergeant - the position he held for the longest, serving for eight years. After that he spent five years as a Patrol Lieutenant.
In 2017, the current police chief, Chris Steffens, announced his retirement. Jarvie took over as interim Chief, then was officially appointed Chief on February 20, 2018.
Having risen through the ranks and served in different positions, Jarvie saw different benefits in different roles.
"Detective Sergeant was definitely my favorite in a lot of ways because I was able to do some things that I wouldn't have had opportunities to do necessarily as a patrol officer," Jarvie said.
One of the opportunities he had as Detective Sergeant was investigated internet crimes against children, specifically working with the Division of Criminal Investigation and their Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) team when it was new and still forming.
"I made a lot of good friendships over there and was amazed to see all the great work they were doing and was blessed to be a little part of that," he said.
While he had unique opportunities in higher positions, Jarvie also values where he started, and the men and women who continue doing that important work.
"Just being a patrol officer really is what I wish I would have appreciated more when I was doing it," he said. "Those are the people that do the most, that are making the most impact in the community, that are doing the most good. As a detective you get to work the bigger cases, which seem more important at the time, but it's not more important than those individual contacts you're making every day as a patrol officer."
As chief, one of the biggest challenges for Jarvie was balancing what the department deals with and the public's perception and concerns. He said that 5% of the department's calls take up 90% of their time and focus, which is where the officers need support and help.
"At the same time, we need to always make sure that a person who feels traffic's going too fast on their street or that's worried about a car that's been parked in the neighborhood for two weeks, that those issues are still being addressed," Jarvie said, "and to try to bridge that gap of knowledge as much as you can between what the general public thinks of policing from the one traffic stop or two traffic stops they may have had in their life to what our folks see every day all day long."
Despite the challenges, Jarvie has been grateful for the opportunity to lead the police department and serve the city.
"I think just the privilege of being chief of police in your home town is just amazing," he said. "I feel like I have such a good relationship with the majority of our community. My wife and children hate going to the store with me because it takes so long. I like to stop and visit and talk to people, and having those relationships has really been a huge benefit and really a very neat aspect that a lot of people don't get. You would never get that as being Chief of Police in a large metropolitan area at all."
A positive effect
Not only has Jarvie developed strong relationships with the community during his time as chief, he has also had a lasting impact on the department.
"It's been really good," Captain Shaun Sturlaugson said of working under Chief Jarvie. Sturlaugson said he, Jarvie, and Captain Janet Kauchich have worked well together and been working on making changes and improvements.
"We all have similar goals and ideals and just want to really make the best police department that we can," Sturlaugson said.
In general, the leaders of the GRPD have been trying to be more progressive. They're currently undergoing a process to revamp their policy manual to make it more up to date, Sturlaugson explained, and have worked to make sure all their equipment is updated and officers are trained properly. He also noted there has been an increased focus on mental health under Chief Jarvie, and the department now has a peer support system, regular wellness checks, and on-call people to help with critical incidents.
"We've changed the culture here to kind of adapt to what the needs of the city of Green River are," Sturlaugson said.
Sturlaugson also noted that one of Jarvie's strengths is in leading people with different personalities. Since Jarvie has been there for all of Sturlaugson's career, he's served as a mentor for him, despite their different personalities.
"He's very calm, cool and collected. And I am sometimes not," Sturlaugson said. "But the best thing for me personally with Tom is he's always allowed me to be me, which has helped me flourish and that's really where he shines as a leader. He allows people to be who they are and still can find a way to take different people and guide them to the same place. So that's the best thing I can say about him from my perspective."
Others throughout the city have also noticed and appreciated Chief Jarvie's positive effect, including City Administrator Reed Clevenger.
"I think that since he's been on board he's continued to hold the department steady, continued to help keep the crime rates low, continued to help focus on specific areas that the Council or I kind of direct towards," Clevenger said. "To me, I think the biggest piece he's done is he's been able to fill in new officers, new detectives, new patrol . . . I think that is going to make that transition a little bit easier."
Transition of power
The transition to a new chief of police is a process that Clevenger oversees. He explained that the department will start by appointing an interim Chief, which hasn't been finalized yet. Then the job will be posted, probably both internally and externally, Clevenger explained, and an Interview Committee will be formed to consider candidates.
"Part of the big thing I like to focus on within the city is succession planning, making sure we have people who are at least learning the next level or next steps within their department," Clevenger said, explaining this will help fill the interim position and give good internal candidates.
In choosing the next chief, all the candidates will be considered to see who can bring in new ideas, new areas of expertise, and a desire to keep promoting a good culture in the department. Chief Jarvie will also be able to offer insight into the transition before he leaves, particularly through his exit interview, which Clevenger will conduct.
Thinking ahead to the transition, Captain Sturlaugson said there will be growing pains, but he believes the department is in a good position to keep going, even though the chief will be missed.
"He's been a big presence here for 30-plus years now and it'll be hard to fill his shoes, but we'll do the best we can," Sturlaugson said.
While he will be missed, Jarvie will also miss the department and the community that he has spent his life in.
"The decision doesn't come easy, especially because it comes with a move," Jarvie said, explaining this next step in his life will take him to Idaho for a variety of personal reasons.
"The community has been a big part of my life, all of my life," he said. "Even the times when I was away in the military, I felt very supported by the community. And during difficult times in my life since I've been here working at the police department, the community has been supporting me, especially the men and women here. So I will greatly miss all of that."
However, Jarvie knows he'll never be able to truly leave Green River behind.
"I will definitely still keep in touch," he said. "I hope to keep all of my relationships, both in the community and in the department, well into the future."