A familiar face is now leading the Columbia Police Department.
Jason Donjon was sworn in as chief on Monday night.
“I am honored to be the next police chief in Columbia,” Donjon said. “This community is so wonderful and I’m truly blessed to live and work here. Myself and all of us at the Columbia Police Department will always strive to serve and protect this community.”
Donjon, 40, has been an officer in Columbia since June 2004. He was promoted to sergeant in 2008 and detective sergeant in 2010. He had been deputy chief in Columbia since 2015 and succeeds Jerry Paul, who retired as chief at the end of January.
Donjon and his eight siblings grew up in Waterloo. He attended Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School and Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, graduating in 1998, before graduating from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He worked in the Alton Police Department for a short time before being hired in Columbia.
“It’s always nice when you can work so close to home,” Donjon remarked.
Since 2010, he has been able to work with the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, a cooperation of area departments in Missouri and Illinois who work together to investigate homicide cases specifically.
Donjon says work with the Major Case Squad can be demanding – sometimes five consecutive 20-hour work days – but the “networking and resources” gained from working with that group are a benefit to the local department.
While noting that all law enforcement agencies in the area are “great” to work with, Donjon feels the Columbia Police Department shares a special relationship with its residents, something he plans to continue as chief.
“Everyone I work with has a level head. They have the goal of treating everyone with respect, making our officers some of the best” Donjon said, adding that he wants to “maintain and possibly even grow” the department’s reputation as a community-minded organization.
He credits Paul’s leadership for the department’s atmosphere.
“Chief Paul was very professional and did a great job. He put citizens and community first,” Donjon said, noting that the former chief also created a strong department morale.
“(Paul) understood that no one’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but if he knew your heart was in the right place, he’d always have your back.”
Another goal Donjon has is to make a new public safety complex for city emergency medical personnel a reality. It is something Paul said he regretted not accomplishing during his time as chief.
Donjon wants to “keep the positivity up” during his tenure, something he maintains personally by remembering to do the “little things.”
“I try to focus on what I can do to brighten someone’s day,” he said, adding it is always possible to do “something positive.”
“Even if someone is being arrested, they are obviously not having a great day, but even doing something like giving them phone numbers to call that can help them can make a difference.”
Donjon said he was glad he chose law enforcement as a profession because of being able to help people in the wide range of experiences he encounters.
“You just don’t know what each day will bring” as a police officer, he said. “I have been through all sorts of situations: happy, sad or scary.”
Donjon cited examples of the latter two, one as being the first officer on the scene of the infamous Coleman triple homicide case and other cases involving fatalities, such as the recent incident in which he drove an ambulance while medical treatment was administered to a choking toddler.
He says the best parts of his career so far are having the opportunity to be the local D.A.R.E. instructor for nine years and being in charge of the summer Safety Town demonstrations.
Donjon recalled at the beginning of his career he was looking for “big cases” and wanted to “save the world,” but now he is “older and more mature, it’s the little things that remind me that I’m here to serve and protect. It’s the acts of kindness that we love.”
Donjon and wife Maren have two sons, Andrew and Cam.
The new Columbia Police Department deputy chief is Karla Heine, who was also sworn in Monday.