After 35 years, John Chudzik retires ‘on my own terms’

  • John M. Chudzik SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • John M. Chudzik, who retired on Saturday from Amherst Police after 35 years of service, is shown outside the Police Station, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2020 7:18:47 PM

AMHERST — As a young Amherst police officer, John M. Chudzik worked double shifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to make sure colleagues with families could be with them to celebrate the holidays.

One of those years, in the late 1980s at around 4 a.m., and with the department headquarters still in the basement of Town Hall, the officers on duty were trying to have as home-like an experience as possible, with steak and potatoes being prepared on a grill, when a newspaper deliveryman alerted police that someone had broken into Augie’s Tobacco Shop.

Interrupting his meal, Chudzik was among the officers who responded and discovered the front door of the North Pleasant Street business had been ripped off its hinges and the heavy brass cash register, and some of the high-end cigars, stolen. Chudzik immediately began photographing the crime scene and collecting evidence for the investigation.

Chudzik, who retired Saturday after 35 years with the department, said he leaves with memories of colleagues and tries to remember the mostly good times, rather than the occasional tragedies from encounters with families and children.

“I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve worked in Amherst and found the job rewarding,” Chudzik said.

On July 5, 1985, Chudzik was hired as a community services officer, patrolling downtown streets mostly to do business security checks and write parking tickets. Two years later, he became a part-time officer, getting time in a cruiser and being issued a firearm. Then, on Feb. 15, 1988, he was appointed a full-time officer, graduating from the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Academy in Agawam about three months later.

Speaking from the assembly line at Troy Industries in West Springfield, where he is a member of a production team for rifles, Chudzik, 53, said he was already working 50 to 60 hours a week as a fill-in officer when Police Chief Donald Maia invited him to the kitchen at his home and asked if he wanted a full-time position. 

“Yes chief, I do,” Chudzik said was his answer.

After graduating from the 12-week academy, Chudzik started with a double shift and for several years worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, in part because he hadn’t learned to type in school.

“Since not much happened at 3 a.m., I figured I would have 5 hours to get my reports done,” Chudzik said.

Eventually, Chudzik moved to the dayside and had more interaction with the public, where he served as the department's firearms instructor, firearms licensing officer, armorer, property and evidence officer, fire investigation liaison and backup representative to the National Crime Information Center and Criminal Justice Information Service computer systems.

Police Chief Scott P. Livingstone said Chudzik, who colleagues have known as “Chop,” has been a dedicated member of the department. In fact, Livingstone was Chudzik’s training officer in 1988.

“He was a valued colleague and mentor to many of his fellow officers,” Livingstone said. “His strong work ethic and commitment to the town of Amherst is unquestionable.”

“An amazing career dedicated to serving the people of the town of Amherst” is how Town Manager Paul Bockelman described Chudzik in a tweet.

In March 2009, Chudzik received the department’s Badge No. 1 for being the senior member of the patrol force. But Chudzik said while he thanked his colleagues for this honor, he only wore that badge on special occasions, always remaining Badge No. 45.

Chudzik was also a member of the department's crime scene search unit, fire investigation unit, crime prevention unit, photography team, search and rescue team and warrant entry team, and in 1996 earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Western New England University in Springfield.

In 1999, the Hampshire County Emergency Medical Service meritorious service award was given to Chudzik for his involvement in an incident that occurred on Sept. 16, 1998.

Chudzik grew up in Hadley, the son of Myron J. Chudzik and the late Mary Ann T. Chudzik. He lives with his wife Beth in Belchertown and said that he began planning for retirement from law enforcement five years ago.

“I appreciated being able to leave on my own terms,” he said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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