Model Ariz. officer commits suicide as pressures add up
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Cpl. Jim Jones' wife and children and to the members of the Williams, Arizona Police Department. Jim's death stands as a jolting reminder of the devastating impact that stress, both in your professional life and at home, can have on any of us. Please visit wellness section of PoliceOne to read crucial articles related to dealing with stress and depression.
Rest in peace, Jim.
-- Scott Buhrmaster, Contributing Editor
Model Ariz. Officer Commits Suicide As Pressures Add Up
By Mark Shaffer, The Arizona Republic
WILLIAMS, Arizona -- It had all seemed so serene on the surface for Cpl. Jim Jones, Williams' Police Officer of the Year in 2001. He was a devout Christian, who had studied to be a pastor. He was a family man, who often took his six children and stepchildren on fishing trips.
He was a former baseball star, who saw his major league dreams end because of a knee injury. He was a stickler for detail, who had gotten to the bottom of many of this mountain city's most insidious crimes during his nine years on the force.
But Jones, 33, had a big secret that finally came to light earlier this year within the Police Department: He became addicted to prescription drugs while seeking help trying to fall asleep at night, Police Chief Frank Manson said.
After a relapse late last week, Jones got in his police vehicle, drove to the isolated, scrub pinon country outside the city, and left a calm, emotionally even message on Manson's telephone recorder about the "failure" he had been in life, officials said. Jones gave Manson precise directions to the area from which he was calling.
He hung up the phone and shot himself to death with his police-issued handgun.
"He was a great guy who wore his heart on his sleeve," Manson said of Jones, who headed the Police Department's canine drug unit. "But when you take normal people and put them in abnormal circumstances, bad things can happen."
Circumstances such as trying to make ends meet on an annual salary of $33,000 in one of Arizona's most expensive small cities while being the main support for six children, ages 4 to 14. And losing a second job, coupled with his wife, Jody, losing her only job in June. And, Manson said, the threat of losing his law-enforcement career if he had more problems with drugs.
Manson said that Jim Jones' life started spiraling out of control two years ago when Jody became seriously ill, three of his children had appendectomies within three months and Jim broke his leg on duty after slipping on the ice while walking down a street in downtown Williams.
Then, Manson said, one day in late February Jim showed up for duty under the influence of prescription drugs that had been intended for his wife. He was suspended without pay for a week, placed on probation for six months and ordered to see a psychiatrist in Phoenix and a psychologist in Tucson.
"He was deemed fit to go back to work by both of them, and he did so well in his recovery that I took him off of probation early," Manson said.
But other problems were soon to follow.
The Joneses lost their jobs in June at the local Pinecrest Apartments, where Jim was the maintenance man and Jody was the office manager. Residents said Jim didn't have enough time for his second job and that the financial records were in disarray at the low-income apartments. They moved to a rental dwelling north of Williams in the Red Lake area, near where Jim committed suicide.
"They were between a rock and a hard place," said the Rev. Charles Lord of Williams' First Southern Baptist Church, where the Joneses attend services. "Their side of the story was that they wanted to bail out of those jobs because there was so much pressure involved."
Greta Kay, manager of Pinecrest Apartments, refused to comment on why her predecessors left but said, "They were very nice and tried very hard to please everybody."
Whatever the reason for the departure, Lord said that the financial pressure increased on Jim and Jody.
"Even with Jim working two jobs, they had done other things like carving up elk meat that hunters brought in," Lord said. "You have to work long and hard to survive here."
There also were a lot of other pressures on Jim, said police Sgt. John Jamison.
"He was going through a lot of the same things that all small-town policemen do," Jamison said. Williams, home of the 11-person department, has about 3,000 people and is in a tourist hub for the Grand Canyon. "You can't stay in town and escape this job. People corner you in the grocery store, anywhere you go.
"Everyone knows where you live. I've had beer bottles broken on my driveway, eggs thrown on the sides of the house, vandalism to patrol cars and horns blared in the middle of the night. Jim had gone through a lot of the same things because he had been extremely visible living at the apartment complex."
What's left behind
But now, all that remains is Jim Jones' haunting voice on Manson's tape. Manson gives a brief tour of Jim's office, which has a picture of the deceased officer posing with Gov. Janet Napolitano on the governor's recent trip to Williams. An adjoining wall has been turned into a virtual shrine to two pitchers, former Diamondbacks star Curt Schilling and Arizona ace Randy Johnson with posters, bobblehead dolls and other memorabilia.
A card in his desk drawer from his wife tells of her love for him but pleads with him to share his innermost thoughts.
Manson said that Jim called for an ambulance to transport his wife to Flagstaff Medical Center on Friday afternoon because he thought that she had used a "life-threatening" amount of pain medication.
Shortly after Jody was transported, Jim made the call to Manson. He said he had done something "stupid," that he had taken some methamphetamine.
"He knew his career was over," Manson said softly, staring at the floor. "Jim felt he wasn't worthy of forgiveness."