April 30 2020

Burlington Detective Jim Tigges Reflects on Retirement After 32 Years on the Force

By: Rich Hosford

For the first time after 32 and a half years a Burlington detective walked out of the Burlington Police Department no longer a full-time member of the force. 


Detective Jim Tigges officially retired from the department on Thursday, April 30 though he will remain connected to his former career as a Special Police Officer and educator. 


“It’s a real weird feeling,” Tigges said in an interview on Wednesday evening. “Tonight I packed up my radio and I turn in my handgun tomorrow. These are things I’ve been surrounded by for 32 years. I’m 58 years old so I’ve been a cop more than I haven’t been.” 


Tigges was first appointed as a Permanent Intermittent Reserve on September 27, 1987 and became a Patrolman on March 28, 1988. As a Patrolman he graduated from Somerville Police Academy. He was part of the department’s Motorcycle Unit from 1992 to 1996 and then worked in Accident Reconstruction from 1996 to 2006. He also worked as the Scheduling Officer starting in 2000 a job he would keep before applying for, and becoming, a Detective on September 8, 2014. 


When asked what he will miss the most there was no hesitation in his answer. 


“Definitely my coworkers, they are like a second family,” he said. “Some are like brothers and sisters to me. And some are like sons and daughters because they are the next generation down. I call them kids.”


Second on the list is his interactions with members of the community. He will maintain this to a good degree as a member of the Board of Selectmen and he says he is willing to volunteer his time to run the annual Safety Night event that has been popular with many Burlington families. 


“I’ll miss the constant community contact,” he said. “But the community will always be there and I’ll be involved and volunteer when I can.”


He will also stay connected to his former career by teaching new officers through the Mass Police Training Council that oversees numerous academies. 


“I’ve got 32 years of experience and I don't want to bottle up,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot and know a lot and want to share a lot.” 


He was also appointed a Special Police Officer at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen for the Burlington Police Department. In that role he will do police details, work at events and other similar activities. 


Tigges said when asked about his biggest accomplishments that Safety Night ranks near the top but just having the career he did, and where he did, was number one. 


“I honestly think working for Burlington PD is my biggest accomplishment,” he said. “When I go to police conferences and trainings I always hear people say ‘Burlington Police Department does this and we follow what they do’ and things like that. It makes you feel like you work for the best. You compare it to other officers in other agencies and they say they wish they had the same level of training. We have a very high clearance rate of solving crimes and figuring out who did what and I attribute that to all the training we do. We get a lot of training and use it to do our job better.” 


The most interesting case, he said, was the July 2, 2015 homicide of Sanisha Johnson, 34, of the Bronx, New York, at the Extended Stay America Hotel in Burlington. He worked the case with Sgt. Tom Carlson and the two of them had just completed homicide training just two weeks before. Two men, Epshod Jeune, 24, of Burlington and Derrell Fisher, 21, of Roxbury, were arrested and charged in the case. 


To put that training into use two weeks after and to get the results that we did was something,” he said. “We don’t have murders often but we did and within days had the suspects and both have since been convicted. We followed the forensics of the case and how Evidence A  led to Evidence B to Evidence C. We had video and found the matching car.” 


He said that later some officers went to a two-day conference put on by the District Attorney and they used the case as an example of how to do police work. 


“It showed how everything fell into place because we did things right,” he said.  


In 32 years on the force, Tigges said he has seen things change a lot in how police departments operate, and the most dramatic changes have come with the evolution of technology. When he began, he said, the Burlington Police Department had one word processor, not including the computers used to run license plates. 


“Now everything is done on computers,” he said. “We have computers in the cars and in our phones. It’s been great for us because we can do things so much faster. Burlington used to be one of the top places for car thefts but now with all the tracking capabilities you don’t see that nearly as much. We’re also not seeing as many burglaries because of technology.” 


He also said that instead of paper and ink for fingerprints they can now scan them with a computer and get feedback from agencies across the country. 


“Digital finger printing can tell in five minutes if they are wanted or are a sex offender and a whole lot of other things,” he said. 


Technology is also used by criminals of course, and those cases can be difficult to solve, he said. Many scams are conducted from places outside of Burlington and even outside the country so finding who is responsible can be challenging. 


“Technology has been good for us but also bad for victims of crime because there are new and different ways to commit crimes,” he said. 


Tigges said he wants to thank the Burlington community for all of the support he and the department have received over the years.  


“One thing I do want to get across is that the Burlington Police Department wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t the support of the residents,” he said. “When things happen, like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, people send support. We get a lot of cookies and the restaurants send us food on holidays. We wouldn’t be who we are today if it wasn’t for the support of the businesses and residents of this town.” 


We asked what he was looking forward to doing with more free time. 


“Get some stuff done around the house and enjoy some free time,” he said. “Nobody can go on any trips right now. I do hope to buy a pick-up truck as a present to myself because I’ve always wanted one.” 


Other add their thoughts 


Finally, others weighed in on Detective Tigges and his career at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. 


Chief Michael Kent said he regretted that they couldn’t have a party like they normally would and give a proper send-off at the time of his retirement but wanted to say some words. He said when he joined the department, Tigges was working in scheduling and doing a great job keeping everything running smoothly. 


“I was amazed at how many balls he was able to keep up in the air,” he said. 


Kent also talked about his attitude and demeanor. 


“Jimmy is always in a good mood, I never see him without a smile on his face and a positive word,” he said. “He was always in early and he would be the first person I see everyday and it was a nice way to start the day.” 


Kent said when Tigges first applied for the detective job he wasn’t sure he was the right fit but was soon proven wrong. 


“Just as in scheduling he did an unbelievable job as a detective,” he said. “He was thorough, tremendous with the public, and if I had something I needed a little extra attention put to I’d always shuttle it Jimmy’s way. In every job he’s held in this department, he’s shined. He will be a major loss for the department when he retires.” 


His fellow selectmen also weighed in. 


“I've known Jimmy for many years and he’s always been a great employee and a consummate citizen and officer,” Selectman Bob Hogan said. “I’m thrilled he is retiring and I’m thrilled to be among his friends.” 


“I’ve known Jim during my career here in the Fire Department and he’s always shown himself to be a true professional,” Selectman Mike Runyan said. “Everyone knows his commitment to the community. 


“I find myself in an interesting position in that now all the police officers I knew growing up are now finishing up their careers and Jim is one of them,” Selectman Nick Priest, the son of a retired officer, said. “I’ve known him my entire life. It goes without saying that the town of Burlington has been lucky to have the people we have in these roles serving the community and that goes for Jim. He always puts his best foot forward and that shows in his actions. From the bottom of my heart I say thank you and wish you a happy retirement.”


“I agree with everything everyone has said,” Board Chair Joe Morandi said. “Thank you for all your years of service.”


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