Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff passes torch

Posted at 4:41 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 18:41:06-05

At the age of 19, Tom Ryff joined the Tempe Police Department.

"I was a young guy, eager, excited, happy to be serving my community and here I am and boy things have changed," said Ryff, while sitting in his corner office with bare walls. "Yeah I had a lot of stuff covering these walls, great photos, memories, gifts and so many items that reminded me where I came from."

For the past several weeks, Ryff said he's slowly been taking items off the walls and his desk, taking them home.

"I couldn't do it all at once, I had too much stuff," Ryff said while sitting on his desk smiling.

It was nearly 37 years ago when Ryff became a police officer for the City of Tempe.

From a patrol officer, he worked his way to the corner office as the Chief of Police.

"It's been a heck of a ride, I am so proud to be leaving this office knowing this department is firing on all cylinders, my officers, the support staff, the community, it's all great that everyone is working together," said Ryff while walking down a hallway lined with black and white photos showing the history of the department.

"You know, I would walk down this hallway everyday and look at these photos of these retired guys, now I'm one of them," said Ryff.

Tuesday marks Ryff's last day on the job. 

"I have no idea what it will feel like tomorrow. I bet my staff will be happy to not get the 5 a.m. call from me they would get everyday. I'm an early riser and always wanted to know what was happening in my community," said Ryff. "It will definitely feel odd to not be playing a role in protecting this community I love."

When asked about some of his most memorable calls, Ryff paused, "You know, I will never forget or really miss having to pass along bad news, notifications. I remember a man who was in his 80s and was on a bicycle and hit and killed. I went to his home to make that awful notification and the man's wife was inside, it was their anniversary and she was baking waiting on him to return from his bike ride. That's a scene and feeling that sticks with you."

Ryff said those heartbreaking stories continued when he went to the scene following a murder/suicide at Tempe Town Lake when a man drove his family into the waters.

"I sat there and I saw my officers and the firefighters and you could feel the heartbreak and see the anguish and even then so many memories came back and this is in the twilight of my career, sad," he said.

While talking about how policing has changed, Ryff explained he had seen too much to list over the years.

"It's not just in police work, it's this great city, as a child I used to run to ASU stadium and play football with my friends, tossing the ball around, I used to ride my bike all over this area, there wasn't a whole lot here, my mom still lives down the street, my wife works in Tempe and as for police, geez, everything from radios and technology to weapons and response and training, I'm just so proud and so fortunate," he said.

Ryff said the last item to take from his office was a lone coffee mug.

"I'm wearing my first badge on my last day," he said. "I'm walking out so proud of what the men and women at this department do on a daily basis. They work so hard and I will always be concerned about their safety."

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are gathering to bid farewell to Ryff.

"Words cannot express my feelings other than pride and honor and it has been a great ride," he said.