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home : news : news Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3/23/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Done laying down the law. Mike Osmun, captain of the DeWitt Police Department, prepares for his upcoming retirement after serving with the department for over 36 years. Osmun says while he will miss the work he did conducting investigations and being second in command for the department, between his family, his involvement in the American Legion and the DeWitt Area Veteran’s Memorial project, he is confident he won’t have too much down time. Photo by Kate Howes
Following in the footsteps of his father, Osmun began his career in law enforcement working part-time for the Eldridge Police Department. He was hired by the city of DeWitt in December 1976. When he started, Bob Canaday was the police chief and Dick Mohr was the mayor. Prior to becoming a police officer, Osmun served his country in the United States Navy working as a communications electrician. Contributed photo
Wish Osmun well at ‘Coffee With a Cop’ Tuesday, March 26
Residents are invited to join members of the DeWitt Police Department for "Coffee With a Cop," Tuesday, March 26, 9-11 a.m. at city hall.

Those who attend the event will be able to enjoy coffee and pastries while they congratulate captain Mike Osmun on his retirement, sergeant Marc Swingle on his promotion to captain and officer Shia Cruciani on her promotion to sergeant.

The event is free and open to the public.

Osmun officially off duty after 36 years in law enforcement

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

It was a career he swore he'd never consider, but now Mike Osmun is retiring after serving for over 36 years in law enforcement.

A second-generation police officer after his father, Harley, who worked for the Bettendorf Police Department before he became chief of police in Eldridge, Osmun was raised in a law enforcement family.

"I grew up with it," he relates. "Even my grandmother was one of the first communication operators for the city of Bettendorf. As kids, when dinner was ready, we'd race for the telephone and say, 'Grandma, will you tell dad it's suppertime?' and he'd come home."

For as long as he can remember, Osmun's family was involved in law enforcement in one way or another. Yet, being a part of that tradition never was on Osmun's radar.

"I said I'd never do it," he says. "I came out of the Navy a communications electrician. But at that time, in 1975, the job market was extremely tight."

A friend from high school was working for the Eldridge Police Department and Osmun would accompany him on ride-alongs.

One night while patrolling the city streets, his former classmate told Osmun the department was looking for a part-time officer.

"He talked me into applying and now . . . here I am," Osmun says with a smile while sitting in his office at the DeWitt Police Department.

After working in Eldridge, Osmun began looking for a full-time position hoping to get hired in a small community. He was employed by the city of DeWitt in December 1976 and has been with the department ever since.

Over the years, Osmun advanced from patrolman, to corporal, to sergeant, to lieutenant and finally to captain.

He has served under five chiefs - Bob Canaday, Dick Peasley, Gene Ellis, Tom Whitten and David Porter.

Osmun has witnessed a number of changes and technological advances in the area of law enforcement on both a local and national level.

One very positive change has been the manner in which the department connects with the public.

"One definite asset for this police department definitely has been the community policing mindset we've adopted," Osmun notes. "My dad believed in that. He would go to the elementary schools and sit on the floor with the kids. You have to have that positive connection with the public, starting with the kids. You can't just expect the public to see the officers only when or if they have an issue."

The various programs the DeWitt Police Department provides, including the Citizens Police Academy, and events such as National Night Out promote a more positive relationship and create a better understanding between the department and the community it serves.

"Years ago, (the department) was very reactionary," Osmun says. "We only would respond or associate with the public when someone did something wrong. Especially back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, people hated the cops. Law enforcement agencies around the world are trying to get away from that."

Crimes change with the times

Osmun says he always has enjoyed working on investigations and says it's been fascinating to see how the crimes themselves and the manner in which they're investigated have changed over time.

"Now we have a lot of reports of Internet scams and fraudulent checks," Osmun relates. "Everything we do is done through technology now. I remember going to an FBI fingerprint identification and classification seminar. It was very intense to learn to identify a fingerprint or even a partial fingerprint."

Osmun says the training came in very handy.

Years ago, there was a rash of burglaries in DeWitt and thanks to fingerprints left on a carton of cigarettes dropped at the scene of one of the crimes and the department's ability to identify those fingerprints, close to 26 of those investigations were cleared.

A little over a decade ago, Osmun says a burglary was solved thanks to being able to match the DNA from a drop of blood at the scene.

"Those kinds of techniques are invaluable to law enforcement," he relates. "We can do so much more now."

As for what Osmun will do now - or, following his retirement, which officially will begin March 31 - he is certain there will be plenty of things to keep his time occupied.

"Between my family - my wife, three kids and six grandkids - my involvement in the American Legion and working on the DeWitt Veteran's Memorial project, I don't think I'll ever find myself without something to do."

Osmun admits breaking a 36-year routine won't be easy.

"I enjoy coming to work because I enjoy my work," he shares. "But, there comes a point in time when you draw a line in the sand and you say to yourself, it's time to step aside and let someone else step in."

Osmun hopes the department will continue to strive to work together with the public and find new and interesting ways to connect with its community.

After all, through the goods times and bad, it's the local residents who have made Osmun's job worth doing.

"It hasn't always been an enjoyable experience," he says of being a police officer. "But the reward I've received from the community has been overwhelming for me, personally. That comes with how you treat and interact with the people. It gives you a real sense of belonging."

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