End of an era — Groves City Marshall Norman Reynolds Jr. retirement nears

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

GROVES — Of the 122 police officers who have worked for the Groves Police Department since 1952, Norman Reynolds Jr. has worked with 96 of them.

A third generation police officer and police chief, Reynolds officially retires from the office of city marshal in early January, a title he has held since November 2014.

It may be odd to realize that Reynolds, who is one of the longest serving lawmen in Southeast Texas with 41 ½ years in full time capacity, didn’t immediately think of becoming an officer after high school. His father, Norman Reynolds Sr., and grandfather, Preston James Reynolds, were both lawmen.

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“It just never crossed my mind,” he said. “But I came home one day and I told my dad that I spoke to a recruiter and, he said, well, ‘have you ever considered law enforcement?’ And I said, ‘no sir, I had not.’”

His father presented an option, go to the police academy and give it a try for a year and if he didn’t like it, he would drive him back to the recruiter.

“So I got into it, started liking it more and more,” Reynolds remembers. “Within a few years I knew that was it. So I really never looked back.”

Reynolds was able to get his start with the Griffing Park Police Department in 1980 while attending Lamar University Police Academy.

He remembers his first day as an officer — which was a time when one didn’t need to complete the police academy before working. Reynolds had ridden with his dad and other officers before, so he had some experience.

That morning he was meeting with his dad and was called to a traffic wreck on Twin City Highway.

A Groves officer was there and assisted. When it was over, Reynolds’ dad asked to go back to the station. Reynolds asked why he wanted to be dropped off, and his dad said, “I’m going home.”

It felt symbolic, as the younger Reynolds was ready to ride alone.

His dad told him “you can just call me, I’ll be there.”

“I was nervous,” he said, adding he was just a 19-year-old at the time.

From there Reynolds spent almost two years with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office before then Groves City Marshal Mark Domingue hired him.

Reynolds recently sat back and thought of his long career in law enforcement and put together some notes:

  • Officers today are much better trained than when I started.
  • Being a police officer today is a very difficult and complicated job, in difficult times.
  • Technology is one of the biggest changes since I started in 1980. At that time we didn’t have computers, cell phones, dash cameras or body cameras.

Reynolds continued, saying another concerning change is the attitude of the public regarding the police. He also said one of his biggest regrets is the time he sacrificed from his family over the years.

And he is grateful, he said, the department never lost an officer in the line of duty.

Chief Deputy Kirk Rice has been a fellow officer and friend of Reynolds through the years.

“The Groves Police Department is marking the end of an era. City Marshal Norman Reynolds Jr. has served this community with dignity and honor for many years,” Rice said.

Under Reynolds’ tenure, crime decreased and the department continued to move forward in the technological age, he said.

One of Reynolds’ first official acts as city marshal was promoting Rice to chief deputy.

“I appreciate him giving me the opportunity to serve as his assistant. He’s left a huge mark on this department,” Rice said. “Even though he’ll leave the police station for the last time, he has a whole lot of stories and memories he’ll take with him.”

Through Reynolds’ tenure came a workout room for officers. This, he said, started 20 years ago with his own equipment and has built up to something he is proud of.

National Night Out and the Blue Santa program have also started under his tenure and are both considered very successful.

During his time as chief, Reynolds has increased the number of sworn officers to 24 and increased the civilian staff to four full time employees.

Reynolds will likely have to take a day to pack his belongings, which include wild game heads of animals such as deer and mounted ducks. One deer mount in particular holds an item from the department’s history. The axis deer has an arrest board with the words Groves Police Department and room for five numbers, which formerly corresponded to an arrested person’s number.

Another throwback is a handheld microphone that was used in the patrol room to communicate.

Looking toward the future, Reynolds said he would miss the camaraderie with others in the department and called it the best part of the job.

He looks forward to hunting and fishing and even taking up golf again.

Travel is also in his future and he’d like to bring his wife Becky to see the Rocky Mountains.

As he bids adieu he asks residents of Groves to please continue to support and respect the police officers, saying it would be an impossible job otherwise.

“Most importantly, I want to thank all of the sworn officers and civilian staff for their support over the years,” Reynolds said. “They make me look better than I am every day. I love them all and I mean it. It comes from a very good place.”