A bittersweet celebration was held Saturday night for a Washougal Police Officer who grew up in the community in which he served.
Tom Davis, who worked for the Washougal Police Department for 25 years, retired in December due to health issues. He served most recently as a school resource officer.
The retirement dinner, held in the commons at Washougal High School, attracted more than 110 supporters — including friends, family and former coworkers. Retired WPD Chiefs Randy Sheppard and Bob Garwood attended, along with former Sgt. Kim Yamashita. She is now the police chief in Sandy, Ore.
Prior to the ceremony, WPD Chief Ron Mitchell said it is sad to see Davis go.
“I enjoyed working with him,” Mitchell said. “He is a good person all around. I hope everything works out well for him. It’s nice we have this time to say ‘good-bye.'”
During the ceremony, Mitchell said he was impressed with Davis.
“He is very caring, and he was doing his job for all the right reasons,” Mitchell said. “It is unfortunate that it came to an early end.”
Mitchell also made a brief mention of “Miami Vice” parties that he and Davis attended while they were both reserve officers.
WPD Sgt. Brad Chicks, organizer of the retirement dinner, talked about Davis’ character and integrity.
“He was an outstanding detective and patrolman,” Chicks said. “He found his niche at school. He was a ‘bridge’ between the students, faculty and law enforcement.
“He always thought of victims and families, to give them the best,” he added.
Chicks mentioned several instances of Davis’ work having a positive influence on the local community.
They included when Davis purchased a new coat for a Washougal High School student whose coat had to be cut after a vehicle accident.
Davis was also credited for saving lives when he ran onto state Route 14, to get the attention of an impaired driver who had driven an 18-wheel hay truck past barricades toward a Life Flight helicopter that had landed in response to a fatal vehicle accident. There were police vehicles’ flares and orange cones to indicate that the east and west bound lanes of SR-14 were closed at that time.
There was mention of an arrest of a serial arsonist as well as Davis’ investigation of the murder of Clinton Williams in November 1999.
“This [murder] case still haunts several of us, to this day,” Chicks said.
Davis also investigated child abuse cases, stabbings and shootings.
On behalf of the WPD, Chicks presented Davis with a framed memento of four police patches, two badges, a photo of WPD employees and a plaque.
Mayor Sean Guard mentioned that his family grew up near the Davis family, and he is proud of the “homegrown officers” that work for the Washougal and Camas police departments and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Davis, 51, is a WHS graduate.
WHS Associate Principal Carol Boyden praised Davis for his “incredible communication.”
“He treated students with respect and care,” she said. “I learned how to interview students and when to listen.”
During the 2010 Relay for Life, held at Fishback Stadium next to WHS, Davis accepted donations for the American Cancer Society while dressed as a pirate wench.
He received second place honors for participating in the Mister Relay competition.
“He was a very ugly woman,” Boyden said.
Yamashita recalled how Davis drove her to chemotherapy appointments in 1996. The friends also fed fish while snorkeling in Mexico.
“You are officially adopted into my family,” Yamashita told Davis. “I appreciate my time with you.”
The tribute to Davis included a Powerpoint slide show, featuring photos of him through the years and music from The Beatles and ABBA. There was also a video with grateful comments expressed by students and teachers.
Davis received several standing ovations before wondering aloud if he was at a memorial service.
He said Monday he was “pleasantly amazed” by all the people who showed up in support of his career.
“Brad did an excellent job putting it together, and it will always be remembered as an unforgettable night in my life,” Davis said. “He is truly the best sergeant I ever worked with and my very best friend at the same time.”
He considers the position of school resource officer the best job he ever had.
“It was so refreshing to have observed teachers and staff at those schools pour their hearts and souls into their work,” Davis said. “I learned from them that it only takes 15 minutes of caring for a troubled student to change their life and proudly stand at graduation and see them receive their diploma. I will miss the students and staff the most I think, and I hope to be able to come back as a volunteer and again make a difference.
“I hope I made the Washougal schools safer while on the job,” he added. “I know many parents and teachers told me they felt safe with me there. I will miss that.”
Davis hopes to travel and write a book after he and his doctors “gain control” of the severe case of rheumatoid arthritis that forced him to retire.
“I am writing about some of the cases I worked on during my 25 years of service,” he said. “Rheumatoid arthritis does not go away, but we can work to slow down the joint damage and relieve the pain and fatigue.
“I enjoyed every minute of my job right until the end, and I would do it all over in a second if I was able to,” Davis added. “I will miss my brothers and sisters at the Washougal Police Department, Camas Police Department, Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Washougal and Camas fire departments. East Clark County is blessed to have so many dedicated first responders.”
Davis officially retired in December 2010, and Dan McPherson has become the school resource officer in Washougal.