SOUTHWICK – Retiring Police Chief Kevin A. Bishop was feted June 21 with a retirement party at Roma Restaurant.
Bishop has been a member of the Southwick Police Department for nearly four decades, serving as its chief the past three years. Upon retiring, Bishop and his wife Carol plan to pack up their two chihuahas in their camper and see the country, although those who know Bishop know he will eventually put his uniform back on.
“I was approved as a reserve officer,” Bishop said, noting he just can’t stay away. “But first Mrs. Bishop and I will travel for a while.”
Bishop started his career as a Southwick reserve officer in 1983. In 1984 he became a fulltime officer. He was always community minded and police work sounded like a good way to connect more with the community, and that, he did.
“He’s always been a community-minded police officer,” said Southwick Police Sgt. Thomas Krutka. “Starting with DARE and all through the pandemic – when he did something like 62 birthday parades for residents – he has always focused on community.”
That was one of the reasons Krutka joined the department and why he has stayed.
“I came to Southwick in 2001 and he was one of the first persons I met,” Krutka recalled of his start at the SPD. “He took me on a tour of the station and a tour of the town. We talked and discovered we both enjoyed motocross and we have been friends ever since.
“It’s been 20 years and we are still friends.”
Bishop formed Team Justice, a motocross team that rode at Southwick’s pit course, to keep kids out of trouble. Krutka joined the team and helped guide youth at-risk alongside Bishop. Michael Bridges, a Southwick police officer, and his father traveled with the team and mentored member. Bridges presented Bishop with a pit banner Monday commemorating his time with Team Justice.
Krutka said when Bishop became chief, Team Justice disbanded but has still been running unofficially and Krutka hopes Bishop returns to the track after traveling.
“He did everything for the team,” Krutka said. “If someone needed a bike, he got one, if someone needed a ride, he gave one. He was a mechanic on the track and fed everyone.”
As Krutka looked at the crowd gathered for Bishop Monday night, he said while he supports Landis completely, things will be different around the station.
“I can’t imagine the Southwick Police Department without Bishop,” he said, noting it would likely be much quieter.
Landis spoke at the retirement and lightened the mood in true Bishop fashion with a bit of a roast.
“On occasion Kevin has been known to make a statement that has left the room shaking their head and asking, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’ Over 20 years ago while attending a training I had challenged Kevin to just take a breath and count to 10 before he makes a comment,” said Landis. “He has yet to meet that challenge, and for that, Carol, I am sorry.”
Landis mentioned several anecdotes from over their years on the force together and said some of Bishop’s nicknames over those years include “clown, rabbit, mentor and friend.”
“I can’t say we are going to miss you because I am sure you will be checking in regularly as soon as you get back from your trip, looking for something you can get involved with at the department when you continue as a reserve officer,” Landis said before presenting Bishop with a framed shadow box of his badges on behalf of the officers, dispatchers and staff.
Bishop was touched by the kind – and funny – words spoken at the event, including from state Sen. John Velis and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
A 1978 graduate of Southwick High School, Bishop loves Southwick and it shows.
Southwick Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart worked with Bishop most of his time on the force and said “Kevin will be missed greatly. I have had the honor of working with him over the last 30 plus years and observed many important qualities firsthand.
“He has demonstrated good leadership and worked well as a team member with all town departments. He had passion for police work and serving the community at large.”
The community has taken notice of Bishop’s dedication, especially its youth.
In 2020, Bishop organized a Class of 2020 “Drive Around,” which was a 40-mile drive through the towns of the regional school district. He encouraged residents and businesses along the route to decorate their lawns and storefronts and cheer on the graduates. This year, he organized the event again for the Class of 2021.
The class wanted to return the favor and organized a standing ovation at the Drive Around and wrote “Thanks Chief Bishop” in colorful cups on the fence at the front of the school campus. “That was one of the most memorable moments of my career,” Bishop said. “It really meant something to me.”
While that will be remembered as one of his best days on the job, Bishop recalled one of his worst.
It was an October Sunday – a perfect fall day – until tragedy struck two Southwick families. Two teenage drivers collided and did not survive.
Bishop had to tell two sets of families that their young loved one had died. Recalling that day now, several years later, is still very emotional for Bishop, who choked back tears as he relived that day. “Seconds can change things,” he said. “I changed two worlds that day.”
Bishop said he fully supports Landis and while he will miss his daily interactions with the police and dispatchers and the community, he is looking forward to retiring and spending time enjoying traveling with Carol and their dogs as well as spending time with their daughter Jess and her wife Michelle.
“I look forward to seeing places I’ve never seen and seeing friends and family,” he said, giving special thanks to Carol for sharing him with Southwick for the past 37 years.