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Published: Saturday, 6/9/2007

Chief of police spent 23 years on Bryan force

BRYAN - James L. Phillips, 68, a member of the Bryan Police Department for 23 years - eight as chief - who became a polygraph expert and a probation officer, died of cancer Thursday in his home here.

He retired as chief of police in 1988; he was promoted to the post in May, 1980.

Mr. Phillips climbed steadily through the department's ranks. He completed courses at the Dayton Police Academy and became a Bryan police officer in 1965. He was a patrolman for nearly three years, a sergeant for about three years, and a lieutenant for a decade before he took the top job.

"Jim was a good chief. He did a good job for Bryan," said William Runkle, Bryan's retired longtime mayor. "He knew everybody in Bryan. Jim was 6-foot-something. If you saw Jim Phillips unfold out of a police car and come up to you, you'd listen. I had great respect for him."

Mr. Phillips worked in the Bryan street department for nearly a decade before he joined the police force. The street department job was his way to get a foot in the door, said Jimmy Phillips, his son. He became a part-time firefighter in 1962.

He wanted to improve himself, and he wanted to help others, family members said.

"He grew up on the rough side of town," his son said. "He worked with juveniles all his life, even after he [retired as] chief, just to steer kids the right way. He was truly one of those self-motivated persons - never quite satisfied and always thought he could make himself a little better."

John Wayne was his hero; he liked Westerns, and he once wanted to be a Marine, his son said. Bryan "was his own Dodge City and his own way of being in the Marine Corps wrapped into one," his son said. "He liked things to be right."

Still, he could relate to a wide range of people and circumstances.

"He understood the average Joe, and he'd say it a lot of times: A blue-collar guy who went to the bar and got into a little trouble doesn't always need to be a bad guy," his son said.

"They deserve a fair shake," agreed Anita Phillips, the elder Mr. Phillips' widow.

Mr. Phillips learned to be a polygraph examiner while on the police force. After he retired as chief, he had his own practice and, at various times, was hired as an expert witness by the prosecution or the defense in criminal cases.

"He liked the psychology and the challenge of matching wits with that trial environment," his son said.

Mr. Phillips also was a probation officer for Williams County Juvenile Court after he was chief. He retired altogether in 1996.

He was a former president of the Ohio Association of Polygraph Examiners and served on the Governor's Committee on Drug Crime. He was a former president of the Williams County Fraternal Order of Police and was a member of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

Mr. Phillips was a 1957 graduate of Bryan High School. He continued his education through the years at police academies, Defiance College, the University of Toledo, and the American Polygraph Academy. He was a graduate of Delta College in Michigan.

He was a longtime coach of his children's and grandchildren's sports teams and was a former president of the Bryan Baseball Association. He was a woodworker who made furniture and decorative items for his children and grandchildren.

In retirement, he and his wife bought a camper and traveled the country, often to track down genealogical records. They spent a lot of time at Harrison Lake State Park in Fulton County, where he was a volunteer.

He was a voracious reader too, and had completed the Bible at least a dozen times and the World Book encyclopedia at least four times, his son said.

Surviving are his wife, Anita, whom he married Feb. 6, 1956; son, James E.; daughters, Kathryn Pool and Lori Phillip; mother and stepfather, Gertrude and Milo Gray; brothers, Thomas and Gus Phillips, and six grandchildren.

The body will be in the Krill Funeral Home, Bryan, after 2 p.m. tomorrow, with a recitation of the Rosary at 8 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in St. Patrick Church, Bryan, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to Cancer Assistance of Williams County in Bryan or the Williams County Public Library in Bryan.



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