Retired Illinois State Police officer talks about his family's history in law enforcement
When Dave Bivens retired this fall from the Illinois State Police after 28 years in law enforcement, it marked the first time in 61 years that a member of the Bivens family has not been part of the ISP.
Bivens’ father, Jim C. Bivens, was in the State Police; as were Jim’s brothers, Jack Bivens and Bill Bivens; his other son, Jim W. Bivens; Jim W.’s wife, Linda Bivens; and his nephew, Don McKinney.
Altogether they had a total of 178 years of service in the State Police, from 1955-2016. Counting other relatives and extended family members, the family has amassed 303 years in law enforcement.
At a time when it seems police all over the country are under the gun, with shootings involving police officers being reported almost daily, the Bivenses today are thankful for two things: their long, distinguished careers in a respectable profession, and that none of them were ever seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.
They also give thanks for some basic principles they feel allowed them to have successful careers and stay out of harm’s way: Treat others the way you want to be treated; follow the laws you enforce on others; be a part of the community; and do anything you can to help others.
They said they took their oath seriously and did the best job they could to keep the communities where they worked safe.
“I have nothing but positive stuff to say about my years as a policeman—from patrol to investigations. I enjoyed every aspect of the job,” said Dave Bivens, who retired with the rank of lieutenant as head of investigations in ISP’s District 11, based in Collinsville.
His father, Jim Bivens, worked for the State Police from 1957-87. He said it was a good job from the inside out, and like everyone in his family who worked in law enforcement, he said it was a good job because he enjoyed the work he did.
I have nothing but positive stuff to say about my years as a policeman—from patrol to investigations. I enjoyed every aspect of the job.
Retired State Police Officer Dave Bivens
He said the climate for law enforcement then was different, too. Bivens said there was a lot of respect for law enforcement, and occasionally there was a bad seed who refused to comply.
Next, it was the children: Jim W. Bivens, who served from 1984-2009; his wife, Linda Bivens, 1982-2009; and Dave, 1996-2016.
At his recent retirement party, Dave Bivens said he was proud of his family’s history—the trail blazers who paved the way for the many others to follow, as they made their individual decisions to pursue law-enforcement careers.
Dave, a quiet man, said the passion he had for the job enabled him to do it to the best of his ability. Before he retired, he was commander and acting captain of investigations in 41 Illinois counties. He talked about how police departments have changed since he started.
“There were no body cameras or computers in the cars. The job is more busy requiring all of the technological advances that are in place today,” he said.
Jack Bivens said that in his day, “It was more like community policing.” He said police were getting out of cars, greeting and talking to folks to get to know them and to allow the public to get to know them.
“It seemed like it worked. I remember one lady who liked to cook greens. She invited me by to join her, and I went to her home, ate greens and chatted with her,” he said. Today, people don’t cooperate with police investigations as much, he said.
He said he always tried to remember the Golden Rule: Treat people the way you want to be treated. “If a man runs a stop sign, why belittle him in front of his family for making a mistake? You shouldn’t talk above people,” he said.
“Build trust. This is very important. People have to have trust in the police,” Jack said.
Joking, when asked why he chose a police career, he said, “I was too honest to lie, too lazy to steal, so I had to be a policeman.”
Jim W. Bivens agreed. He said police have to be proactive, “but that doesn’t mean writing tickets and having a scowl on your face. It means being involved in the community and helping out any way you can.”
Jim W. Bivens said he is thankful for his years in law enforcement. He was working as a Teamster before he became a law officer. He took a pay cut, but after seeing his father and uncle and the respect they got as law enforcement men, he decided he wanted to check it out. He started out in Caseyville as the village marshal.
I was too honest to lie, too lazy to steal, so I had to be a policeman.
Retired State Police Officer Jack Bivens said, joking
“Everywhere they went, they were respected. It was an honor for them to help someone out, even if it meant stopping their supper to do it,” Bivens said.
“I chose to work as a road trooper. I enjoyed being dispatched to different calls. Each one was something different. I also worked with the S.W.A.T. team for years and taught crowd control at ISP for 22 years,” he said.
Their mother, Jeanine Bivens, said when her husband left for work everyday, she knew he could possibly be put in harms way, but she prayed and kept faith in him that the training he had would help him to make it through, and it did. And, when her sons came to her with their decisions to follow in their dad’s footsteps, she said to them several times, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
“When my two sons, Jimmy and David, at different times said they wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps, I was proud they realized what an important position police officers have. I was also apprehensive because I knew of the dangers they could face. When Jim (their dad) joined, I was young and dumb. I didn’t realize totally what dangers were out there,” she said.
“Jim served at a different time than David (the youngest). It was a different world then. In Jim’s time, they had thieves and drunks, but you didn’t have all of the crimes connected to dope that you have today. When you had a drunk, you knew what you had. But with people on drugs, you never know what to expect ... just different worlds,” she said.
Dave Bivens started his career with the Swansea Police Department in 1989. He left there in 1995 and joined ISP, where he said he did a lot of different jobs. He got the itch for the police uniform and all that comes with it when he was 6 years old.
“I saw my dad in his uniform and I decided I wanted to become a State Policeman,” Bivens said.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503