Chief ready for life after retirement

Chief Robert “Pat” Johnson of the University Police Department will spend his last days at the University of South Florida this week as he passes the torch to a new chief.

“Thirty years … that’s why I’ve got to go,” Johnson said when asked about his departure.

He started at the Sarasota campus and transferred to Tampa around 1977, where he has worked in every position available at the department. According to departmental policy, after 25 years an officer may go on the drop program for retirement and stay on drop for five years. Johnson has completed his five-year drop and was chief for three of those years.

He has already taken down his family pictures and the achievement awards that were hanging in his office. He’s now ready to take time off to visit with his family.

“My wife and I have some traveling to do,” he said.

His children, all adults now, live in different parts of Florida, and they are ready for their father to take a vacation and pay them some visits. With midnight shifts and long hours, Johnson said they have put up with a lot over the years.

After so many years in law enforcement, leaving will be difficult for Johnson. Not only will he miss the job and the people, he said, but also the spontaneous lifestyle he has adopted as a law enforcement officer.

“You can think about law enforcement as every day you come to work – it’s never the same,” Johnson said.

As Johnson will miss the day-to-day happenings of being chief, his co-workers will always hold a high level of respect for him.

“Chief will always be chief,” UP officer Catherine Roche-Moore said.

With any chief, even though they may retire, he or she will always be referred to as chief, Roche-Moore explained.

“I’m sure everybody is going to miss chief. There is different personality characteristics that he brings to the agency,” she said.

Although he will be missed, his co-workers are ready for a new chief and the structural changes that will occur in the department soon.

In his 30 years, he has seen many things, and the changes have been significant.

The crimes have changed as the volume of people on and around campus grew, Johnson said. The department has grown accordingly, but so has the amount of crime. More students and more vehicles mean more crime – especially theft.

Different types of crimes came along, as well. As technology advanced, computer-based and financial crimes became more frequent.

Theft is the biggest crime on campus, but murder has been minimal.

Johnson has dealt with four murder cases since he’s been at USF. Though one of those – the murder of Ronald Stem – is fresh in the minds of most at USF, Johnson said four cases in 30 years is a pretty good rate.

Despite the adversity brought on by the increase in crime, Johnson said the changes, as well as working with people, are what he has enjoyed most – though some of the crazier things he’s seen have kept life interesting.

“The Sun Dome has been a treat for us,” he said. “I think some of the things we’ve seen at the Sun Dome were pretty wild.”

He said he’s witnessed people jumping off the stage and the rafters, which resulted in many arrests.

As a graduate of Florida State University, Johnson supported the Seminoles and still travels to watch them at least twice a season.

“If the Bulls play the Seminoles, then I’m probably not going to go,” Johnson said.

However, he will still be on campus for different events, Bulls games and volunteering. However, his post-retirement schedule is quickly filling up.

“Our calendar is booked up through August, so once we get through there, then I’ll see if I’m ready to go into something else,” Johnson said.

As new chief Thomas Longo begins his tenure, there will be changes to the structure of UP. There will be additional personnel and positions. There will also be new uniforms to match the USF colors – dark green pants and shirts – and the badges will be USF gold.

Though UP will miss Johnson, they are optimistic about the department’s future with Longo.

“We’re looking forward to change,” Roche-Moore said.

Longo moved from Tallahassee over the weekend and begins today. Johnson will spend four days training Longo, and his last day at the office will be Thursday.