Dowagiac Police officer surprised & honored after 40 years of service

NOW: Dowagiac Police officer surprised & honored after 40 years of service

DOWAGIAC, Mich. -- Officer James ‘Jim’ Kusa was the grand marshal in Dowagiac’s annual Candlelight Christmas parade on Friday evening. But the day before, his son surprised him as he signed off after 40 years on the job.

It was the end of his final shift with the Dowagiac Police Department.

On Thursday, Officer Kusa called into dispatch one final time to sign off, or give his ’10-42,’ after four decades on the force.

After ringing in, a voice responded to Kusa, as his colleagues filmed on their phones.

“It is with great honor to announce that as of 1900 hours this date, after 40 years of service with Dowagiac Police Department, my father, James F. Kusa, badge number 6006, is retiring and giving his final 10-42.”

The voice was Jim’s son, James.

“James started talking and I realized it was my son!” Jim said. “And, you know, it was hard to keep a dry eye.”

“[We] wish you the best of everything with retirement,” James said over the dispatch line. “I love you, Dad. See you at home.”

Dowagiac has been home, and the office, for Jim for the last 40 years.

And one day after his son surprised him with that now-viral sendoff, Jim was honored as grand marshal of Dowagiac’s annual Christmas parade.

“We consider it to be one of the largest candlelight parades in southwest Michigan, possibly the state,” said Max Sala, a co-chair of the parade committee. “It’s kind of Dowagiac’s own little Macy’s parade.”

Between dance performances and floats decked out in holiday cheer rolling by, Officer Kusa led the route, in uniform, one last time.

“Jim is a fixture here,” said Dowagiac Police Chief Steve Grinnewald. “I mean, literally, when people think of law enforcement for the city of Dowagiac, they think of Jim Kusa. This department’s been around for 165 years. That’s a long time. And there’s certain people throughout the entire time of this department’s existence that stand out, and Jim is definitely one of those, without a doubt.”

Jim’s time in law enforcement may be over, but his son is studying to become a Michigan State Police trooper.

“My career choices and stuff that I want to pursue is definitely because of him,” James said of his father.

Jim was the center of attention on Thursday and Friday, but he kept true to his reputation as a humble public servant.

“We’re all out here doing the job and we’re all here for a reason,” Jim said. “I’m no – I’m not special. We’re all cut of the same cloth. Everybody I’ve worked with here at the Dowagiac Police Department believes in the same ideals that I do. We just want to help the members of the community – make it a better place to live.”

Jim joined the Dowagiac Police Department back in 1974 after being inspired by officers who responded to a home invasion at his family’s home.

He became a full-time officer in 1977 and worked in Dowagiac all the way through until Thursday.

Sala said close to 2,500 people came out for Friday’s parade, which was complimented by unseasonably warm weather.

Everyone came out to celebrate Jim and the holiday season.

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