JAMES CITY — At the end of the year, James City County’s first full-time officer is hanging up his uniform.
Police Chief Emmett Harmon, 57, has spent 38 years in law enforcement, 34 of them with James City, and he’s credited with bringing the small department a very long way. He could have retired seven years ago, but there were things he wanted to do.
“This is the way I would prefer to go out,” he said, reflecting on the things he has accomplished during his tenure and how well the police department runs today.
Harmon said he’d had the idea of joining the force since middle school. While most departments won’t hire until age 21, Harmon said he joined up during a brief window in which Suffolk was hiring younger.
From there he moved to Newport News and finally to James City, where he became its first officer.
“When I found out that they were forming a new police department in James City County, that was really where I wanted to do police work,” he said. “That was home for me.”
He said he worked patrol, SWAT, community services and countless other jobs within the department before being named chief in 2005.
Since then the department has grown from 75 officers to 93, added a marine patrol and a dive team and taken over working its own vehicle accidents because Harmon felt the department should handle them. He also oversaw moving the police department out of cramped quarters on Route 5 to a new building in Lightfoot.
“He’s been a very effective chief,” said County Administrator Robert Middaugh. ” I think he’s built a very strong department.”
James City Fire Chief Tal Luton said Harmon has been a close personal friend and the latest in a line of great police chiefs. He said Harmon has helped build a close working relationship between the departments that he hopes will continue.
Investigator William T. Gibbs has worked with Harmon 30 years and said he knows his chief wouldn’t ask anything of him that he wouldn’t do himself.
“He’s always been what I referred to as a police officers’ chief,” he said. “…Like a good commander he’s always looked after his troops.”
Middaugh said they will begin the process of finding Harmon’s successor in the next few weeks. Harmon’s last day will be Dec. 31.