Five veteran Springfield police officers with more than 150 years of combined service will retire this week.
To Detective Tim Barcus, Sgt. Barry Eggers, Capt. Mike Hill, Detective Allen Icenhour and Officer Mark Parsons — being a police officer was never a job. It was something they loved to wake up to do every day.
“This is a family, this is what I’m going to miss about it — these guys,” Hill said as he looked at his fellow retiring officers sitting around the table.
The retiring officers will find it hard to leave behind the men and women who have turned into more than just co-workers, the many laughs they found in the serious jobs and the many thank you’s they’ve received over the years from Springfield residents.
“I feel like if you can touch a couple of people while you’re doing this job, then you’ve done your job,” Hill said
“I’m missing it now,” Parsons said, just thinking about when he will walk out of the doors of police headquarters for the last time as an employee.
Looking at their formal badges and crisply ironed dress shirts, the men sat around a conference table last week and looked professional. But the smiles and roaring laughs that filled the room as they shared memories made it clear they didn’t let 25 plus years at a tough job dampen their spirits.
“I love my job” — is one sentence that came out of all the men’s mouths.
All the officers began their careers with the Springfield Police Division between 1984 and 1989. Hill and Icenhour started the same day, May 7, 1984, and will end the same day on Dec. 16.
“It’s just the friendships and the camaraderie,” said Icenhour or “Ice” as he’s known to his coworkers.
The men all worked closely together at one point or another in their lengthy careers. And each had many roles in the police division.
Parsons and Eggers are both cornerstones of the crime scene investigation unit. Barcus served as a school resource officer before moving into investigating thefts and fraud with Icenhour. Hill will end his career in charge of all investigations after he’s moved through almost every position available in the department.
Now the men are looking forward to projects around the house, volunteer work, vacation homes and time with their grandchildren and families.
“My plan is to cook so bad my wife will take back over,” Icenhour said.
The transition won’t only be hard for the retirees, Springfield Police Chief Stephen Moody said, but also for the department to fill their shoes.
“We’re trying to move forward, but that’s a void — a big void,” Moody said.
Aside from the humility and dedication the men brought to the job, Moody said the knowledge they have will be hard to replace.
“They’ve guided so many people that have passed through these doors,” the chief said.
Springfield police will be short by the end of the year at least 10 officers of the 124 on staff that’s required by the city charter, Moody said.
Three more senior officers — Sgt. Jeffrey Flores, and Officers Jenny Lake and Jerry Bowen — are scheduled to retire in April, which the chief said will leave more deficits.
More than 100 people took a civil service test in July and the city is working through applicants to fill the vacancies positions, Moody said.
Men and women entering the field of law enforcement these days face many challenges, the group of retirees said, that they didn’t for most of their careers. That includes what Eggers called an outspoken animosity against police in society.
“It’s not fair,” Eggers said of some people’s perception against police.
Especially when people in the community base their ideas against Springfield police off of actions of law enforcement across the country, he said.
But there’s always been ups and downs of sentiment toward police, the officers said.
“Hopefully it will swing back around sooner rather than later,” Hill said.
One thing young officers should be thankful for, the men said, is how technology has helped in the field.
“When we first came on, cell phones didn’t exist,” Parsons said.
The group laughed as they reminisced about revolvers as their first work-issued guns and when crime scene photos were processed by hand in a dark room.
As they leave the Springfield Police Division, they will continue to keep an eye on the establishment, the men said, as the city’s financial issues threaten the number of officers on the city streets.
“There’s not much else you can cut, we’re already working on a minimum,” Hill said.