Brackenridge police chief gets retirement surprise — from a man he arrested a decade ago
When news came out that Brackenridge police Chief Jamie Bock was retiring, ending a more than 40-year career, Regis Brucker Jr. knew he had to get him a card.
Brucker, 51, knows the chief well. They see each other when they’re out walking in the borough, Bock with his dog.
And Bock put Brucker in jail a decade ago.
Brucker spent about a year behind bars on an arson charge in 2008. In 2007, he had set his father’s house on Third Avenue on fire.
“I love the guy. He’s a great guy. I really think he’s a great guy,” Brucker said. “He always treats people with respect. I never see him in a bad mood, to be truthful. I never seen the guy upset.
“I always respected the guy,” he said. “I did it. He didn’t do it. He had to the be the guy to arrest me.”
Brucker’s probation ended in 2014. And Bock only had to arrest him once.
“He seems to be doing well now, and I’m glad,” Bock said. “More or less, he’s going down the right path now.”
Bock said he was surprised to find the card on his desk.
“It makes you feel good that maybe you turned (someone’s) life around for the better,” he said. “If they made a mistake, which anyone can do, being human — for them to come back and thank you means a lot. You had an effect on their life, hopefully in a positive way.”
After Bock, 64, retires Saturday, it will mark the first time in more than 60 years that a Bock has not been part of the borough’s police department.
His father, Robert Bock, was an officer for 19 years, 12 of them as chief.
Bock knows every street, and every person, in the borough, Mayor Tom Kish said.
“He was a good chief. He dedicated all those years to the borough,” Kish said. “He took care of the department well. He got along with everybody all those years. He was always available for anything. He’s just an all-around good guy. I hate to lose him.”
Sgt. John Antal, 57, an Allegheny Township resident who has been with Brackenridge full time for 25 years, is retiring at the same time.
“It was an honor to work there and to serve the community,” Antal said. Of Bock, he said, “He’s a pretty easy-going guy to work for. Jamie’s just an all-around nice guy.”
While Jamie Bock followed his father as a police officer and chief, retirement is something his father didn’t get to do. Robert Bock died on the job in June 1975 after suffering a heart attack. Jamie Bock was 21, and he started as a part-time Brackenridge police officer a few months later in October.
He started working full time June 26, 1977, two years after his father’s death. He worked as an officer for 21 years, under three chiefs, before becoming chief himself and holding the position for 20 years.
Although he had been a military police officer in the Army Reserves, after dropping out of college, “I had no intention of a police job,” Bock said.
A Brackenridge native and 1971 graduate of Highlands High School, Bock was working as a glass cutter at Liberty Mirror when Larry Hunter, a co-worker and part-time Brackenridge officer, said he should take the test to become an officer.
“He told me, ‘You’re an MP. Take the police test. Your dad would be proud,’ ” he said. “I’m glad he told me that. I wasn’t really thinking about it.”
Bock was the youngest of three children and the only son. Robert and Margaret Bock had two daughters, Margaret Solomon, who died from cancer in 1986, and Roberta Malobicky.
At the outset, Bock said his goal was to become chief. He put his name in when his predecessor, Chief Guy Gula, retired in December 1997.
“It’s as high as you can go,” he said. “I felt I would be fair and I would do my best. You can’t advance any higher than chief.”
In an old black-and-white photo with the bottom faded away, Bock’s father is in uniform, gun on his hip and pipe in his mouth, holding his infant son. Bock remembers worrying about his dad.
“You always worry. You want to make sure he comes home safe,” he said. “I grew up in that type of atmosphere, knowing he wouldn’t be home for holidays and things like that, or miss when I play baseball due to work. You understood it. It was part of the job.
“I’m sure he wished he could have been there. You had to do what you had to do with your job.”
Bock and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Breann Guzzo and Robert J. Bock.
Bock’s son also followed his father into law enforcement. After working part time for Brackenridge and Tarentum, he’s now a deputy sheriff with Allegheny County.
Bock said one of his proudest and happiest moments was when he pinned a badge on his son at the police academy.
Bock said his wife and children have been supportive and understanding when his job would take him away from them — like it had with his father when he was growing up.
“It’s very helpful to have a supportive family,” he said. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job.”
The hardest part of the job? Having to tell someone a loved one has died.
“It takes a toll on you,” he said. “We always see the negative part of humanity. It’s not easy. You have to learn to live with it.”
But there are uplifting, even rewarding aspects. Among them, Bock recalled teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, known as D.A.R.E.
“If you can save the one child on the fence, I thought the program was well worth it,” he said.
Bock said he’s never been shot at and never had to fire his weapon. But, he noted, bar fights that once involved fists now involve guns and knives.
“The world seems to have become much more violent,” he said.
He’s also seen the change in the community.
“People used to take better care of their property. There were not as many dilapidated buildings,” he said. “People used to have a higher standard of living. It affects the calls we get.”
Retiring is bittersweet.
“All good things got to come to an end,” he said. “It’s time to step down and let other people take over.”
Bock said he used to hunt and fish. He said he may take up fishing again. A longtime member of Pioneer Hose, he said he may become active in the fire police, directing traffic.
Harrison police Chief Mike Klein said he knew Bock as a fellow volunteer firefighter before they both became police officers.
“Many in law enforcement in the Valley, they’ll miss his routine opening salutation of, ‘Hey, how are you?’ Everybody knows that one,” Klein said.
Bock hopes he made his father proud.
“I don’t regret taking this job. I’ve had a good life,” he said. “The guys I’ve worked with made my life easier. A chain can only be as strong as its weakest link. We had a good chain here.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.