Aug. 26, 2008 — Arthur Amos spent his last night with the University Police as a plainclothes officer.
Amos, who retired Aug. 21 after 21 years on the force, worked his last midnight-to-8 a.m. shift in his own clothes, making the rounds one last time. He said he wanted to turn in a clean uniform.
After he finished his last shift, he was honored by his fellow officers and Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the University, at a breakfast ceremony at police headquarters.
"This officer has done a lot over the years to make this department better," said Sandridge, who described Amos as someone to whom he would go for advice about what was happening around Grounds.
When he reviewed the daily notifications from the University Police, the manner in which Amos worked with students stood out, Sandridge said.
"It is so clear that when students come to you with problems — some of their own making — if they are trying to get it together, no other officer is as accommodating and helpful and willing to give them a break," Sandridge said.
Amos recounted many memories. He worked the 1997 graduation ceremony when a pavilion balcony collapsed on the Lawn, and he worked the night shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings when several students were arrested for brandishing a toy gun as part of a film project.
"I thought we had a Virginia Tech scenario," Amos said, "We approached it as a copy-cat situation."
Amos said the suspect was in custody when he arrived, but he had to perform a search of the Chemistry Building Annex, a structure with which he was unfamiliar. "I had not been in that building much and I did not know where someone could be hiding," Amos said. "It was tense."
Amos, 56, said he wanted to be a police officer since he was a youngster.
"I always held police officers in high esteem and always looked up to them," he said.
Raised in Buckingham County, Amos joined the U.S. Army in 1975 and was stationed in Germany as part of the 1st Infantry Division, the legendary "Big Red One." He said he joined because it seemed exciting.
When he mustered out, he became a corrections officer at the Powhatan Correctional Facility. He worked for the Virginia Department of Corrections from 1980 until 1987, then started work at the University Police Department on Dec. 21, 1987.
Amos worked almost his entire tenure on the midnight shift, for the same reason he joined the infantry — the excitement.
"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "It could be shots fired, a domestic disturbance, an automobile accident or a larceny. You can get called to anything at anytime."
University Police Chief Michael Gibson praised Amos for his work with the students. "He has the ability to communicate with students effectively," Gibson said. "They just don't make them like him anymore."
Amos had a dream and a goal. His dream was to be a police officer, and he praised the University for giving him the opportunity to pursue it. His goal was to retire at age 55, which he said is a nice round number in the middle of life.
"You're young enough to enjoy life, not over the hill," he said. "I'm going to relax a while, enjoy some hunting and fishing and camping."
Working on the night shift brought him in contact "with many people, not all of them good," but he says he will miss the people — the regulars he saw on his rounds, and his fellow officers.
The feeling is mutual. "This is a demanding profession and no matter what you do, people are going to say that you're wrong, Capt. Donald McGee, a longtime colleague, said. "You just do what you know is right and hold your head high.
"Arthur Amos has held his head high for 21 years."
-- Matt Kelly