When Jay Sawyer began his career in law enforcement years ago, he immediately felt at home.
“The first time I started the training, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. That first time I put that badge on and that uniform on and got in that squad car, I was hooked,” the retiring Waterloo police sergeant smiled.
Sawyer, 48, retired Monday after nearly 25 years with the Waterloo Police Department, recalling a lot of fond memories involving the community and his law enforcement buddies.
“The people are very nice here. The camaraderie among the officers. It’s just a really good community to live in,” he expressed, saying he raised his kids in Waterloo.
But even in such a safe community, Sawyer faced a number of dangers over the years. One scary situation occurred about 10 years ago when officers responded to the scene of a suicidal subject with a knife.
“We convinced him to drop the knife and I went in to apprehend him, and he had another knife and started swinging it in my face … I could just see the tip of a blade,” he remembered.
As officer Trin Daws ran over to aid in the subject’s apprehension, Sawyer threw out his shoulder tossing the guy on the ground.
“I had actually thought the guy had stabbed me,” he said, describing the pain he felt at the time. “I remember telling officer Daws, ‘I think he stabbed me.’
“He landed kind of on his butt. He was still holding the knife, and officer Daws drew a service weapon and ordered the guy to drop the knife and he did.
“I always tell Daws, ‘You saved my life that night,’ because I tore something in my shoulder so I was working with one arm.”
“The (other officers) are family to me,” he added. “They’re more than just co-workers. They’re family.”
Waterloo Police Chief Mike Douglas echoed Sawyer’s sentiment, saying everyone will feel his absence.
“We appreciate the time and it’s a big portion of his life. He spent over half his life here,” Douglas noted. “It’s good people can spend the time and go on to pursue future endeavors.
“But at the same time, it’s hard to repay that kind of commitment. He will definitely be missed.”
Sawyer recalled his inspiration to enter into law enforcement, which stemmed from his family owning an ambulance service in the 1980s.
“Working in public safety, you work closely with law enforcement, and it was just something that interested me,” he elaborated.
In 1992, Sawyer graduated from the police academy at Southwestern Illinois College. He served as a National City police officer and St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department auxiliary deputy before joining the WPD.
While on the department, Sawyer worked as a field training officer and as a squad leader for the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System’s Region 8 Mobile Field Force.
These mutual aid response teams “provide a rapid, organized and disciplined response to civil disorder and public safety emergencies,” ILEAS’ website states.
Another memorable moment in Sawyer’s career was when he used Narcan last year to revive a drug overdose victim. He was also the shift supervisor on the night Twila Wiley’s husband, James, reported his wife’s death in 2003.
Sawyer said he got the homicide investigation off the ground by contacting his superiors and directing officers to respond to Konarcik Park, where Twila’s body was located.
Sawyer will continue working full-time in law enforcement at the Cahokia Police Department. Some of his instructors from the police academy, whom he said served as positive influences, currently work for Cahokia.
“Waterloo PD has been great to me,” he declared. “The city of Waterloo has been great to me. I have no complaints. But I’m just looking for a change, some excitement.”
He said of being a Waterloo police officer:
“It really has been an honor and a privilege to have served the citizens of Waterloo. And it’s been an honor to work side-by-side with some of the best of the best in public safety.
“They’re my brothers and sisters.”