Since kindergarten, B.J. Gruber knew he wanted to be a police officer or a baseball player. After he was not picked up by any professional teams, his choice was clear. Following graduation from Marion Harding High School in 1993, Gruber briefly started college until he got a call from the Marion City Police Department (MPD) in October of that same year.
Gruber has been a supervisor for eighteen years with assignments in patrol, the drug task force, and the detective bureau. He also served as the SWAT team leader and finally MPACT (Marion Police and Community Together) coordinator prior to his promotion from lieutenant to major on April 5 of this year. Gruber identifies his time in MPACT as the pinnacle moment of his career.
The basis of what MPACT is today was largely created by Gruber as a program he pitched and hoped to implement upon his promotion to major in 2013.
“When I didn’t get the promotion, my mom sent me a message and said, ‘God has a plan’ and as always, my mom was right,” says Gruber.
The program was designed to build closer connections between police and the community they serve by increasing transparency, building trust, and humanizing those who wear the badge.
In early 2016 everything changed for Gruber when then-Chief Bill Collins called him on the phone and asked Gruber to implement the very program that he pitched for someone else to do back in 2013.
“There were mistrust issues around the country, and we were dealing with the ramifications. This program was progressive and ahead of the curve at the time,” Gruber says of the start of MPACT.
“We have to constantly remind kids we’re the good guys, not just by words, but actions and deeds,” says Gruber.
Gruber notes this includes recruiting new officers to MPD, a task made easier by virtue of his position as adjunct faculty at Marion Technical College’s law enforcement academy for the last 18 years. Gruber teaches ethics, officer safety, and a curriculum designed to show officers how to have long and successful careers.
“I enjoy teaching officers how to be the kind of cops our community needs while also showing them the path to a successful, happy and healthy career through resiliency, meditation, mindfulness and a host of other skill sets that nobody was talking about when I started nearly 30 years ago,” said Gruber.
“I’m proud of my profession. It’s a big part of my identity, but it doesn’t have to compete with my family,” Gruber says of finding a work-life balance.
Gruber is a father of four and is now a grandfather. When not at work, he enjoys spending a simple day with his family.
“My happy place is with my wife and kids, binge-watching a game or show in front of the television,” Gruber says. “We’re simple. I look for things that bring value and enjoyment. I don’t like negativity, I’m often a part of a lot of people’s worst days. I just try to be positive.”
“I’m very blessed that my wife loves sports just as much as I do. We can watch games together. She is my best friend,” Gruber says. “Our hobbies largely center around our kids and the things that they are participating in and now our grandson Eli receives every extra moment that we can possibly spare.”
While eligible for retirement next year, Gruber anticipates that he will remain with MPD for another decade.
Gruber notes, “At that point, I will still be young enough to consider some other profession, but my hope is to enjoy a lot more time with my family and to travel the world with my wife.”