VIRGINIA BEACH. Va. (WAVY) – It wasn’t meant to be a show of force by Virginia Beach police this morning. It was, though, a sign of respect for a man who spent his life serving the community.
“It was fantastic,” said Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera. “I did not know it was going be anywhere near as beautiful and have as many officers there. It was extremely touching.”
Officers lined Princess Anne Road to salute Cervera on his retirement. He has been with the department for 42 years.
“It was extremely emotional for me to see the department say goodbye in a positive way,” Cervera said.
Cervera was only 20 years old when he first put on the uniform in New Jersey. A couple years later, a coworker told him about a city called Virginia Beach He came down to check it out.
“While I was here at the time a couple of [Grumman] A-6s flew overhead,” Cevera added. “I was on Birdneck Road and I pulled off to the side of the road and said ‘This is fantastic. I think I’d like to live here.’”
He moved to Virginia Beach, where he began working on the streets.
“I realized it was a growing area,” he said. “It was an area that had a future.”
Cervea saw himself as part of that future. He began working his way up the ranks. He went from sergeant to lieutenant. That’s where he was for the Oceanfront riots in the late 80s.
“Myself and three other lieutenants were in charge for preparing for the following year, and what we did instead of making it a police action, we made it a community event,” Cervera said.
He was the captain when the new Oceanfront precinct opened. He was made deputy chief and in 2010 he was appointed chief.
On Thursday, he’ll put on the uniform one last time.
“I joke that I’ve said I’ve worn this for 44 years,” he said. “It is either this or jeans and a T-shirt, so I don’t know how to dress like an adult. It will be absolutely fantastic.”
The chief says when he looks back at his career he has no regrets.
“I’ve never come to work, I’ve come to a passion,” Cervera said. “I’m absolutely very passionate about what we do. I’ve always said there is a nobility to policing.”
Cervera hopes community policing continues. He believes it’s been the cornerstone of the department’s success over the last decade.
“We’ve reduced crime,” Cervera said. “We are the safest city of the cities of our size. Crime has been reduced by almost 40 to 50 percent over a 10-year period. That’s something to be extremely proud of.“
- RELATED: ‘Seeking progressive, innovative, experienced leader’: VB lists police chief position as 42-year veteran retires
Aerial footage provided by WAVY’s Chopper 10.
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