Officer retiring after 41 years

Posted-Wednesday, May 11, 2005 11:34 PM EDT

Jim HahnSOMERSET - After 41 years in law enforcement, officer James Hahn has become a guiding force.

"It's been a great 35 years," Hahn said. "I'm going to take the summer off to decide what I'm going to do. I don't really want to sit around."

Hahn spent two years as a military police officer and another four at the Meyersdale Police Department before coming to the Somerset force. During his 35 years with Somerset , he has overseen numerous contract negotiations and has become a role model for many officers. "Jim always appeared to me to be the glue that held the department into a tight working unit," said Mayor William Meyer. "The young guys looked up to and came to him and the older guys had the utmost respect for him."

Officer Stephen Borosky said he learned many things from Hahn through the years. Borosky is one of many supporters of the retiring officer contacted by The Tribune-Democrat during the past week. "He has taught us a lot and he was the one we looked up to," Borosky said. "He took the job seriously, but he made the job fun." Meyer described Hahn as the "epitome of what I feel a police officer should be. "After 35 years, everybody knows him in the community," he said. "Statistics show after 35 years you're bound to tick someone off but I haven't found the person yet."

Police Chief Randy Cox, who became chief in July, credited Hahn for aiding his transition to the job. He said Hahn was able to make everything run smoothly as he entered his new post. "He's such an integral part of the department," Cox said. Hahn has stayed current with changes in his career and even has begun implementing a new computer system for the Somerset department.

Meyer said Hahn's mild temper also has led the department through many contract negotiations with the borough. "He was always under control and always a gentleman. Even when it got heated," Meyer said.

Hahn said he enjoyed the contract talks and working with various borough council members. "We went into negotiations. We dealt with it and it seemed like we never held a grudge," Hahn said. "I always thought that was neat - going and fighting for benefits and coming out without a grudge."

Cox said Hahn's consideration for others was impressive. "He seems to balance the concerns of himself with concerns of the officers and concerns with the community," Cox said. "That's a pretty narrow line to walk, and he keeps the balance while doing that walk."

Alan Baumgardner, shift supervisor at the emergency management agency, said Hahn always was calm and collected during his rounds. "He's really level-headed when it comes to incidents. He doesn't jump to conclusions and he takes his time," Baumgardner said. "I think it makes everybody confident because you know he's not going to let things get out of hand with him."

Another quality that he said will be missed is Hahn's frequent stops in the community. "It's definitely going to be different because Jim was always out there every day stopping in at the different businesses and talking to the people." Hahn not only stopped for emergency calls, but also to chat with local business owners to make sure things were safe. "I think a lot of places are going to miss that about him," Baumgardner said.

Hahn said he will take many memories into retirement. "I have so many favorites, and the bad things that occurred in 35 years, you sort of forget. And the good things sort of stick in your mind," Hahn said. "I don't know about any situations that stand out - just a lot of good memories is all that I can say."

Officer Richard Appel said Hahn will be greatly missed. "He fought the good fight for 35 years," Appel said. "He dedicated his life to protect and serve his community.

After 39 years in law enforcement, officer rides into his future

By JUDY D.J. ELLICH, Daily American Staff Writer Jim Hahn

James W. Hahn plans to put some miles on his Vierrago. Only this time he will be using the wind on his face, scenic countryside and loud hum of his motorcycle to relax from a job that has defined who he is for 39 years. "I will put on more than the 1,000 miles a year now," he said. His time-consuming career as a police officer often took away the choice of using his country motorcycle rides to unwind. For a while he belonged to the Blue Knights Police Club out of Johnstown and rode for charity. "I've probably had one kind or another (motorcycle) for about 25 years. I like to drive slow and enjoy the scene. You can have a headache and go for 20 miles and you lose it," he said. He equates watching a race at Jennerstown Speedway, something he does from time to time, with how riding a motorcycle feels. When he has had free time from his job, motorcycles and events like car races helped him unwind and helped him keep a level head while on the job.

Last week, he retired from Somerset Borough Police Department after 35 years, and a total of 39 years in law enforcement. He is not a man of many words, and so on Friday, when he faced a major milestone in his life, he said retiring was a difficult decision for him to make because he looks at the department as a home away from home. "It's hard. But, I knew it was time."

As for what he wants to do down the road, he is not sure and wants to take some time and many motorcycle rides to figure it out. "I'll know what it will be when its time."

So it seems fitting that he thinks of how good it will feel doing one of two his favorite things: taking his time exploring the countryside from the back of his motorcycle. The other is being a police officer and help other police officers. Thus, it also seems fitting that he would end his career in police work by honoring a longtime friend and officer who gave his life while on duty. He did so twice. The first time was a memorial day for Pennsylvania's fallen law officers last Monday in Harrisburg. The second time was a national memorial day for police officers this past weekend in Washington D.C.

He went to the state event as a police officer. He went to the national event as a civilian and charter member of the Fraternal Order of Police Roof Garden Lodge 98 -- a membership he shared with his friend, Sheridan O. Caton, who was Elk Lick Township police chief. Caton died in the line of duty when he responded to a request for backup from nearby Confluence Borough Police last February. Hahn and Caton not only shared the position of being the last chartered members of FOP Lodge 98, formed in Berlin in 1971, but also shared there first years in law enforcement. They were sworn in together as police officers in 1966 and worked side by side for several years in the Meyersdale Police Department. Their friendship continued even when Hahn left the department to join the police force in Somerset Borough in 1970, and Caton moved on to be police chief at Elk Lick Township after he retired as chief of Meyersdale's department in 1994.

Hahn was born and raised in Meyersdale with his three sisters and brother: Betty Patterson, Charles, Ruth Bassett and Margaret Dietle. Margaret still lives just outside of Meyersdale. In fact, until five years ago, Hahn also lived in Meyersdale. He moved near Somerset and resides with Patricia Conrad there. His sons, Jeffrey and Steven, and 13-year-old grandson, Kurt, live in the area.

He was only 16 when his father, Allen Hahn, died but he recalls that his dad was a retired railroad man who was all business. His mother, who has also passed away, was easy going and loving. When he remembers his mother, Viola, he associate his years of growing up with the warm smell of her homemade bread baking and the sweet, syrupy taste of her cinnamon rolls.

He graduated from Meyersdale High School and worked in Shipley Hardware Store in the borough for two years trying to decide what he wanted to do with his life. He joined the Army in 1963 where he worked in the military police. "It is what go me interested in police work."

When his stint was up in the Army he returned to Meyersdale, only to be approached by then Meyersdale Police Chief Paul Lutz, who asked him if he wanted a job as a police officer. He never has regretted his answer. "I was tunneled into the right job." He volunteered to attend municipal police training in Hershey a few years later. Today, it is required of all police officers, but was not in 1969 when he did so.

Hahn began his career as a Somerset police officer on May 1, 1970, and has served as an officer in charge for many years where he coordinated all operational aspects of the department, including help put in the new computer system over the past weeks. "The department here has a great band of guys. I've never had any trouble with anyone in the department for the past 35 years."

His levelheadedness and fair play has helped bring together the different generations. "He is a valuable go between with the young officers," Mayor William Meyer said. He is also valuable for all the officers in the department because of his negotiating and arbitrating skills. Something he plans to continue as long as he is needed.

For the past 30 years he has been affiliated with the FOP and negotiating and arbitrating police contracts for several police departments and their related municipalities, including Somerset Borough. "I enjoy working for other police officers and fighting for their benefits and for them to be treated properly."

Hahn never has a bad word to say about the officers, numerous mayors and six police chiefs he has worked with over the years. He always has tried to be helpful. "I've only been here for just over nine months and I never heard a bad word about that man. He is incredibly invaluable to me being a new chief here, and I'm really going to miss him," Police Chief Randy Cox said recently.

Hahn received a Distinguished Police Service and Knights of Justice award earlier this year. Sponsored by the American Police Hall of Fame, the awards were presented for specific acts and traits exhibited throughout his career. These awards are part of the police department's new Commendation Program designed to reward borough officers' outstanding efforts, Cox said.

Hahn is still contemplating what his future will bring. "I like it where the action is. I like responding to something happening right then. I don't know what I'm going to be doing. I'll know when it is right."

(Judy D.J. Ellich can be contacted at

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