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Jay Armbrister

I am born and bred right here in Lawrence-Douglas County.  I attended Deerfield Grade School, West Junior High School, my sophomore year at Lawrence High School, and then graduated from Baldwin High School in 1994.  I began my career with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in August of 1998 after graduating college from Pittsburg State University. 

My career began in the correctional facility at the Law Enforcement Center located in downtown Lawrence. I was fortunate enough to rise through the ranks and become the Officer In Charge (OIC) of my shift before being promoted to Deputy and sent to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, where I graduated in the 155th Basic Academy on July 2nd 1999.

Upon returning from the academy, I returned to duty at the jail where I was working the day we opened the “new” jail on September 11th, 1999.  I was transferred to the Patrol division in May of 2000 and from there I never looked back.  Road Patrol is where I fell in love with my job and my community.  I worked as a road deputy until 2008, when I was promoted to Corporal.  I continued as a patrol supervisor until March of 2010 when I was promoted to Detective in the Investigations Unit. 

I worked in the Investigations unit for 7 years.  These years were some of my most rewarding, but also they came at the highest personal cost.  It was during this time that I became involved with some of the most personal and tragic events of my life and none of them were of my own making.  I worked everything from forgery and theft all the way up to homicide cases.  It was during these years where I learned the relationship between mental health and those who we serve, but also those who serve.  I will gladly share my mental health story with anyone who wishes to hear it, but in short, I found myself taking on everyone else’s problems and situations as my own.  I found myself in a position where I had to get help to save myself and the ones who loved me most.  This is exactly why I am committed to not only the mental health welfare within our community, but also in those who serve our community.  I want to provide resources for our first responders in order to keep our responders as a resource for our community.  I also want our employees to enjoy their future into retirement. 

There are two main divisions of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office with many subdivisions or units under each division. Throughout my career I have served in both the Corrections Division and the Operations Division as well as all the subdivisions under each with the exception of the most upper levels of our administration, which is where I hope to find myself very soon.  I have worked every post and housing unit in our jail, worked in our Courthouse Security, Warrants Division, Patrol, Investigations, Civil Process, and anything else the Sheriff has ever asked me to do.  On top of that, I have been the head of our Traffic Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Unit for many years, on policy review boards, Patrol Field Training Officer, Jail Training Officer, use of force instructor, and most recently, the head of our Peer Support Unit.  Away from the Sheriff’s Office, I have served on the board of directors for Headquarters Counseling Center and CrimeStoppers.  I have also volunteered time and items to numerous local charities as well as taught classes in food management and procurement at Just Foods in Lawrence.  I have also been on the board of the Baldwin Golf Association for many years where I have served as the president the last 3 years.  We are a non-profit and we operate the nine-hole golf course in Baldwin that has been in operation since 1951.  We have recently had to fight to keep our property as a green space as a resource for our community in the last two years and I stand proud in our dedication as the stewards of this beautiful community resource.  In my spare time, I operate a small woodworking business where I make custom furniture and home furnishings.  My wife and I also decided many years ago we no longer wished to support the industrial agriculture system and began raising our own animals for the food we eat in our home.  We raise and process all animals ourselves because we wanted to know exactly how the animals we were eating were fed, kept, and especially treated.  We now have momma pigs, momma cows, and chickens everywhere.  We also raise a huge garden every year and can much of what we eat throughout the year.

On top of attending and graduating from numerous Law Enforcement Leadership classes, I attended the University of Kansas Emerging Leaders class and graduated in 2014.  I then attended and graduated from the KU Certified Public Managers course, which was a year-long class.  I did my Capstone project on creating community outreach projects that took real life incidents and cases and use them as learning tools.  My hope was to use them to spread knowledge and compassion in order to avoid these situations, but if they did occur, how we best handle them as a community.  At that time I developed a presentation about a real case I worked in which a young man from Lincoln, NE was in Lawrence with friends for a concert and was struck and killed by a drunk driver.  Since the inception of that presentation, I have given it to well over 3000 high school and college students.  Even to this day, I go once a year and speak with all the Baker University freshmen who rush a fraternity or sorority as well as many of the athletic team members.  While the presentation is meant to be very impactful, it is not intended to scare anyone, but instead to get people to think about what it means to drink responsibly and how your actions, decisions, and especially your mistakes can affect everyone around you and the ripple effect from there. 

I talk about mental health on a broad scale, but I don’t want you to think this is just a buzz word meant to make you believe I’m an advocate with no plans to actually make a difference.  I was diagnosed with PTSI (It’s an injury…not a disorder) in 2015.  As I have said above, my story is part of who I am and I will share with anyone who wants to hear it, but the bottom line is my mental health became a critical fork in the road for my family, my health, and my job (that I loved).  I sought help and it saved my life.  I attended a retreat for First Responders with PTSI put on by other First Responders in recovery from PTSI.  It was there I realized I had a life left to live and that life absolutely had to involve guiding others down the path I had just walked and was fortunate enough to find myself back in the light.  I wanted to be the guide for others back into the light.  I mean this with all my being and it’s for people who have never been in trouble with the law, people who find themselves incarcerated for addiction or mental health issues, anyone else who finds themselves in crisis, and especially other First Responders.  I now return to that same retreat every year as a peer and it is some of the most rewarding work of my career, and I am very proud of my career. 

Awards are the most difficult thing for me to talk about.  I have never been okay with being given an award for doing exactly what I was supposed to do, but even with that said, it’s still nice to be told you did a good job.  In 2005 I responded to the Boardwalk Apartment Fire.  Based on my actions that night the Sheriff’s Office presented me with at Medal of Bravery and I believe there have only been two or three of those ever handed out.  Later that year, I also received the Silver Life Saving award (second highest honor in the state) from the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police.  Several years later I responded to a roll-over crash and had to crawl into the wreckage in order to access the driver who was in critical condition.  The car was filling with gas and fumes, but I was able to enter the car and unbuckle the driver and get them out of the car and as a result, the driver is still alive today.  The Sheriff’s Office presented me with the Operations Commendation Award and the Silver Valor Award for my actions that night.  I’m very proud of these things, but honestly, I was just doing what I thought was best for those people and I would hope any other officer would do that for me or my family. 

I’m so sorry my bio is so long, but there is just so much I want to share with you all.  I look forward to serving you and our community going into the future and I can promise you that any decision or initiative I take on will be because I think it is going to make a positive impact on Douglas County, The Sheriff’s Office and it’s employees. 

                                                                           -Jay Armbrister

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