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Veteran cop retires after 40 years on the job

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (February 28, 2015) —

John Conley has really had only one boss since the day he graduated high school in 1973.

The people of Indianapolis.

Conley became a property room employee the Monday after receiving his diploma and three years later was sworn in as an Indianapolis police officer soon to patrol the streets of Fountain Square.

Friday, 40 some years later, Conley retired after taking one last spin around that neighborhood as the outgoing IMPD Southeast District Commander.

“I was down here originally the first 12 years I was on the department,” he said, guiding his Ford Crown Victoria down a brick side street. “Policing’s changed with all its technology and the tools that we used but the job of policing hasn’t. I mean, the types of crimes and the people that are committing them are either the same people or grandsons of the same people I chased down here 38, 39 years ago.”

In his decades on the department Conley has tracked down killers, stopped suicides in progress, bought drugs undercover and ascended to the chief’s inner circle, only to be unceremoniously and, it turns out, wrongly demoted for perceived  mismanagement of the initial David Bisard investigation in 2010.

Bisard’s jury trial, and an out-of-court settlement by the city with Conley and two other commanders, proved the top cops did not mishandle the opening hour of the probe into the fatal crash involving a drunk cop and a motorcyclist.

“I think everything happens for a purpose and I look back on my career and I would like to think I had a good positive influence on people and things I don’t even realize now,” he said. “An officer’s work out here each and every day, you may have an impact on people you don’t even know.”

One the people Conley and everyone in Fountain Square knows well is Rachel Cooper, a community activist and self-described “squeaky wheel.”

“John is a very community-oriented commander and that’s what the south has always been fortunate to have,” said Cooper. “That’s why we’ve been successful on the southside more so than the other sides of town.

“Most officers follow in the footsteps of the commander. If I get a commander that don’t believe in community policing not one of my officers will be following community policing.”

Conley stopped by Cooper’s office to drop off a notice of a community meeting this coming week to address worries about a recent double homicide not far from the University of Indianapolis campus.

“Evil is real and its walking out here and I’ve seen that so many times in my career and that’s what really instilled in me the mission spirit in me that I’m out here for a particular reason and its that,” said Conley. “Evil is real and its out here and its haunting a lot of these people and it takes advantage anywhere there’s an open door.”

When the door to Conley’s IMPD career closes, another will open as he begins his next assignment as a patrolman with the Butler University Police Department Monday morning.

“Its time for me to turn the reigns over to a strong lieutenant who’s going to be a good commander in John Mann and give the neighborhood a fresh look and some new innovative ways,” said Conley at the end of a week that included a farewell tour and a surprise retirement luncheon planned by his wife in the Southeast District Community Room. “You know we’re just a great hearted police department and great hearted people just trying to do a great job.

“I just kind of developed that attitude that I will come into work and wherever they need me to go, whatever they want me to do, that’s my job, that’s what I’ll do.”