Ex-IACP President James Damos Dies; Chief Had No Police Experience


Jim Damos had never even been a police officer when the St. Louis suburb of University City asked him to become police chief in 1961. Damos, who rose to become president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, died Saturday at 91, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He helped found the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis and became its first chairman. He was University City’s police chief for 28 years. Speaking of his IACP leadership, he said, “I guess I’m about the first president that didn’t start out riding a patrol car.”

Damos was working in his family’s movie theater business when then-City Manager Charles Henry named him chief. Damos had what the city manager said the police department needed: management skills. He was a businessman who had served on the city’s personnel board and had helped manage the police department’s then large force of auxiliary officers. He also was the department’s only college graduate. Damos immediately set about getting training for his force, then at 51 officers. He helped persuade the legislature to require training for all Missouri police officers. Mearl Justus, sheriff in St. Clair County, Il., now heads the squad’s board of directors. On Damos never having been a police officer, Justus, who has been a police officer, police chief, and sheriff, said: “It’s just like being the CEO of a giant company. You don’t have to know how to make boxcars. You take care of the business end. And we’re in a business — providing a service to communities.”

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