Former Springfield police chief remembered as ‘an absolute gem of a human being’

Roger Evans also served on elections board, as party chair and in community groups.

A longtime Springfield Police Division veteran and retired chief died Tuesday.

Roger Evans, 87, served 34 years on the division, including a decade as its chief, and was a board of elections member, helped resolve community issues and volunteered in local efforts.

“Roger was an absolute gem of a human being. He had unbelievable dedication to his community, to his profession, law enforcement profession, his church and to his wife Sharon,” said Jim Bodenmiller, human resources director for the city of Springfield who worked with Evans. “Sharon has just been steadfast by his side over the years, including when his health was challenged, and I know he loved her dearly.”

Bodenmiller joined the city in 1987, the same year Evans became police chief, and worked with him a little over 10 years. However, he said after Evans retired in 1997, he continued to serve as an adviser and mentor to Bodenmiller and many others.

“His advice, guidance and leadership helped shape my career here at the city of Springfield ... He was one of my most treasured relationships. I considered him a dear friend and trusted colleague.”

Bodenmiller said Evans had a servant heart, was charismatic and had a wonderful laugh, making him laugh in “some of the most stressful situations.” Evans was well connected to the community and helped bridge gaps and foster relationships, and had a command presence because “when he came in a room, people paid attention to him.”

Evans’ wife Sharon is a longtime member of the Clark State College Board of Trustees, serving for at least 18 years as chair, vice chair and on multiple committees.

“Chief Roger Evans was the epitome of intelligence, grace, humility and humanity. I cannot imagine Springfield without his joyous presence. He is a model for all of our students, as he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni award for Clark State. He will be missed, but his legacy of leadership and kindness lives on,” said college president Jo Alice Blondin.

Dan Harkins, former Clark County Republican Party chairman, said Evans was a “fantastic leader” as he was chairman of the central committee, a member of the Clark County Board of Elections and a convention delegate for President George W. Bush.

“He was just a marvelous guy who had a lot of experiences and would share them in a very down to earth way to communicate very effective messages, and he was extremely calming,” Harkins said.

Harkins said Evans was also active in the Masons and joined the management staff at the Ohio Masonic Home after he retired as police chief; was active in his church with his wife as they fulfilled pastoral duties, and was an advocate for the police levy and expanding the department.

Shelley Baker, executive director of Ferncliff Cemetery & Arboretum, sent out an email to Springfield Cemetery Association Members about Evans’ death.

“Roger served as a dedicated and valued member of the Springfield Cemetery Association since 1992 and as a Trustee on the Board, contributing immensely to our shared goals,” she wrote.

“As we mourn the loss of a dear colleague and friend, we will always cherish his contributions and the positive impact he had on Ferncliff. His service to our mission has been unwavering and he will be so missed.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Evans graduated from Springfield High School, served three years in the U.S. Army, and attended several schools for law enforcement.

He was appointed to the Springfield Police Division as a probationary patrolman in October 1963 and was named a plainclothesman three years later. In February 1970, he was named to the then newly created Narcotics Bureau. He was promoted to sergeant in February 1972.

In June 1973, he graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy, after spending 12 weeks at the session. He was then third officer in the history of the police division to attend the training.

In 1975, he was named “Policeman of the Year” by the Exchange Club, and in October of that year, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned the uniform patrol.

In June 1983, Evans was the high scorer on the police captain’s examination, during the time he was serving as administrative aide to the executive commander captain.

During that time, a series of promotional examinations were being held as an indirect result of the city commission’s abolition of the police chief and assistant police chief positions that year. Instead of a chief of police, the commission drafted legislation to add another captain to the division and allow the city manager to choose an executive commander from among the captains.

Evans was promoted to captain in June 1983.

He was named and sworn in as Springfield’s 18th police chief in September 1987. He became the first Black captain in the police division since the retirement of Capt. James Burch in April 1977. He retired as chief in December 1997.

Evans continued to be an active servant leader and community member in many ways, and his legacy continues throughout the division, organization and his family.

“When he retired it’s not as if he stopped caring for and providing for his community. He was engaged, he was involved, and he was a true servant leader within Springfield,” said city manager Bryan Heck. “We also see the legacy carried on throughout his kids and what they have done for the community and what his family has done. Roger’s legacy, though his time on earth has passed, will continue on forever.”

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