Cottage Grove Police Officer Chris Joyce started this year on the last day of his career.
After nearly 22 years with the Cottage Grove Police Department, 51-year-old Joyce retired Jan. 1, leaving behind a lasting imprint on the lives he guided as both an officer and a citizen.
Originally from Nyssa, Ore., Joyce began his career there as in officer in 1994 and continued to Madras before settling in Cottage Grove in 1998.
Joyce’s first assignment in The Grove was to conduct D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) classes once a week, teaching the dangers of drug abuse to the town’s fifth grade classes. This led Joyce to eventually add school resource officer to his duties as well.
In 2004, Joyce became a K-9 officer, spending the next 13 and a half years handling police dogs JoJo and later Torq.
Joyce has also spent his 22 years in Cottage Grove as a wrestling coach, starting with middle school then moving on to high school. In addition, he regularly coached football through the last two decades.
“Those were my two identities in this community, as police officer and as a coach,” said Joyce.
As a coach, Joyce developed strong relationships with staff and students. In particular, Joyce finds it rewarding to remember “the coaching, the interaction in the school itself and being able to have a positive impact with the kids and the adolescents,” he said. “Now these kids are adults … that remember me having a positive impact on their life.”
In his role as a police officer, Joyce was referred to as “coach” by a fellow officer and sometimes even inmates who had trained under his tutelage.
Joyce found a strong overlap between the two roles, particularly when coaching both athletes and inmates about discipline and accountability.
“There’s ups and downs. There’s blood, sweat and tears in wrestling … and there’s blood sweat and tears out in the real world, too,” he said.
For Joyce, his law enforcement career has been highlighted by the impressions he’s made on those who needed a course correction in life.
“You hope that you’ve done some good and helped somebody,” he said.
In that, Joyce met the challenge of counseling repeat offenders who faced an array of issues, hearing on many accounts promises to straighten out “next time.”
“Finally, that next time when they do fix whatever the problem is … and then you see them a year later, they’re still clean, they’re being productive members of the community — that’s a success story,” he said.
Joyce recalled an incident during a traffic stop downtown on Main Street years ago. A young lady suddenly approached him and credited him with saving her life.
“There was a time in her life where she was in a bad crowd and I said, ‘There’s not going to be anything good that’s going to come if you continue in this scenario,’” Joyce remembered. “And then there was something bad that happened. Fast forward a few years and that’s when she comes up and says, ‘You saved my life.’ We gave each other a hug and I know she’s really successful now.”
In addition to community impacts, Joyce is retiring with no small degree of pride in what he’s brought to the city’s police department.
“The most gratifying part of my career was being a field training officer and being given the opportunity to train a large amount of the officers in Cottage Grove,” he said.
In Madras, Joyce was a field training officer and used a phased training method. He and another officer brought a similar training program to Cottage Grove, which allowed trainees a wider exposure of experiences than the department’s previous method through a process of officer rotation.
“It’s just what I enjoyed doing, was instructing and training and getting a good officer out on the street,” Joyce said.
Upon announcing his resignation, Joyce received a generous deluge of gratitude on social media, which he found overwhelming.
“I’ve read, as of this morning, all 294 comments,” he said last Friday. “But hitting ‘Like’ doesn’t do justice to how appreciative I am.”
In addition to the community support, Joyce was immensely appreciative of his family.
“There are four people I want to say thank you to most importantly and that’s my wife Robin and my kids Sarah, Chelsie and Chase,” he said. “I don’t know how to say thank you to everybody. The citizens of Cottage Grove have treated me, my wife and kids fantastic for 22 years.”
Though Joyce is planning to “take a breath” as he begins his retirement, he intends on remaining active in the community.
“It took a long time to not say, ‘We’re from Nyssa,’” he said. “But Cottage Grove is our home.”