“A carer and a giver”: Madison pays tribute to MPD’s Capt. Wayne Kamus
MADISON — The love for Capt. Wayne Kamus of the Madison Police Department knows no bounds.
Kamus, 57, died the morning of Nov. 19 at his home in Madison from a heart attack. When news spread of his passing, the massive outpouring of thoughts, prayers, memories and condolences served as a testament to Kamus’ impact both within Madison and outside the city limits.
“I truly believe Wayne Kamus was the heart of our MPD and City of Madison family where he will be sorely missed and never be replaced,” said District 1 Councilwoman Maura Wroblewski.
According to a statement from MPD, Kamus had recently been promoted to Captain and was responsible for accreditation, training, internal affairs, community affairs and recruiting. MPD Chief of Police Dave Jernigan said Kamus was promoted Nov. 4, and a “pin the badge” ceremony was planned for him to take place in December.
“He passed away, and we weren’t able to do that, so it’s been quite a loss for us,” Jernigan said. “We’re hurting. We’re having in the next month or so move some people around to be able to cover some of the areas that he worked on.”
His obituary indicates that before joining the Madison police force in 2001, Kamus was a 1980 graduate of Butler High School in Huntsville and joined the United States Army before settling into a career at Intergraph Federal Systems. While at Intergraph, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Management of Technology.
Kamus went on to receive his Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training (APOST) certification in Jefferson County and ended up volunteering at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department. He became a police officer in Trinity, Alabama, following his departure from Intergraph and eventually settled into the Madison Police Department, where he served up until his death. During his time in Madison, Kamus earned his master’s degree in law enforcement.
Though Jernigan has only been police chief at MPD since July 2017, he said he knew Kamus before when he worked at the sheriff’s department. The two got to know each other through the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) program. Jernigan said Kamus also participated often in the Senior Crime Prevention Academy.
“Wayne would come in and talk a little bit about crime prevention and about homeowners associations and how to start one—things like that,” Jernigan added.
After Jernigan joined MPD, Kamus worked directly with him and continued to participate in SALT, the Senior Crime Prevention Academy and served as a lieutenant dealing with internal affairs and community outreach, among other things.
“He was seen many times at the [Madison] Street Festival in the kids tent giving out stickers and badges and coloring books and things like that,” Jernigan remembered. He said Kamus also worked often with HOAs in various manners.
This past year, Kamus also took on the role of accreditation manager. Jernigan said Kamus began this process in 2013, and after a break with it, MPD started it back up after Jernigan joined the department. The accreditation would go through the Commission of the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
“This past year, he was my right-hand man, so to speak, putting in a lot of hours, working some weekends and nights to make sure that we’ve revamped our policies to make us very favorable in our assessment,” Jernigan said.
Kamus’ efforts paid off. Jernigan said MPD earned the accreditation and will receive the official award in May 2019.
“We’ll get the award, and certainly we will humbly accept that award in May because he (Kamus) was the impetus behind getting it done,” Jernigan said. “That was a lot of hard work for him, and we wanted him to be around to be able to receive that award, but we’re going to accept the award on his behalf, absolutely.”
The visitation and funeral were held at Legacy Chapel Funeral Home on Hughes Road Nov. 26. Members of the community and the Madison Police Department packed into Legacy to pay their respects. Members of neighboring police departments also attended. Jernigan said Kamus received a “full police funeral.”
“This is the closest to an in-the-line-of-duty death as you could get,” he said. “I know he passed away at home, but he very well could have passed away here on the job. It’s one of those things that we wanted to make sure for us to heal and for his family to heal, to show the community and his family just what a good person he was and what a good officer he was.”
Honors consisted of a blue line procession, and MPD picked up Kamus’ family and escorted them to the funeral home. The sheriff’s department performed a 21-gun salute, MPD’s honor guard folded his flag and the department did a last radio call to retire Kamus’ number. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office called for a countywide moment of silence Nov. 26 at 3 p.m., the time of the funeral, in Kamus’ honor.
“We’ve done a lot for the family and for us to help us heal,” Jernigan added. “We’re still hurting. It’s still new to us.”
Jernigan also spoke at the funeral, calling Kamus a “carer” and a “giver.”
“He cared about his community, he cared about homeowners associations, he cared about our kids, he gave of his time,” Jernigan said. “He didn’t have any kids himself, but in the eulogy I mentioned that I felt that he had adopted a lot of the kids here in Madison because he made sure they had a very favorable impression of law enforcement, and he spent the time to be able to do that.”
Kamus, of course, also had a big place in his heart for seniors, and the seniors loved him back. Jernigan also described Kamus as a friend to everyone in the department and would often spend time asking his coworkers questions to get to know them, which Jernigan and others would good-naturedly refer to as getting “Kamus’d.”
It was also Kamus’ job in internal affairs to investigate situations that involved allegations against members of the department. Jernigan said that no matter what, Kamus always treated everyone fairly and with respect, collecting the facts to present to the chief, who would make the final decision.
“He had a reputation of somebody you could go talk to,” Jernigan said. “I think that people were very at ease around him.”
Through the many programs in which Kamus participated, Jernigan said he was an “outstanding individual” who constantly worked toward “excellence in policing.”
“You know, you always strive to do better, you always try to reach beyond your grasp and do things that will make you a very professional organization and make you transparent and accountable to the community,” Jernigan added. “That’s one of the reasons we did accreditation.”
Jernigan said the loss of Kamus is difficult because he has never lost anyone in his 39 years in law enforcement as close in a working relationship as Kamus. He noted that Kamus had earned his own place at the table on the command staff and had equal rank with those that were there with him. In August, he had earned the Meritorious Achievement Award. “That’s the second award like that that he’s gotten,” Jernigan added. He was also named “Officer of the Year” twice in Madison.
In addition to the many other ways Kamus dedicated himself to the Madison Police Department, he volunteered to be on MPD’s social committee, which Jernigan said helps with morale, welfare and recreation for the officers.
“He volunteered for that because he cared about this place and he cared about the people that worked here,” Jernigan said. “Again, I keep going back to the carer and giver because that’s what he did. He gave everything for this job.”
At the Nov. 26 Madison City Council meeting, Council President Steve Smith said he was touched that the Huntsville Police Department offered to patrol Madison’s streets and answer calls on MPD’s behalf so they could attend the visitation and funeral.
“[Kamus] meant a lot to our city and to our department, to a lot of family and friends,” Smith said. “I went to the visitation … and what struck me was there was Madison police, Huntsville police, the county sheriff’s department, all the local municipalities … Huntsville reached out to us and sent their officers over here to patrol our streets so our officers could get off the streets and go to the service. That was just very touching for me to realize that they reached out in that manner.”
Since Kamus’ passing, many have paid tribute to him online and through social media.
Soon after the news was announced, Madison Fire and Rescue shared their condolences in a Facebook post, which read, “Our hearts go out to our brothers in blue. We all knew Captain Kamus, and he will be missed by all.”
On Twitter, the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office called Kamus’ death “a great loss to the law enforcement community.”
Sen. Tom Butler, who represents the area in District 2 of the Alabama Senate, also offered his condolences to Kamus’ family. “Deepest sympathy to the family of Capt. Wayne Kamus of Madison Police Dept.,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “May God bless you in this time of grief and sorrow.”
Many fond memories were shared through the guestbook on Legacy Chapel Funeral Home and Crematory’s website, with several guests pointing out many of Kamus’ positive attributes and sharing ways in which he made a positive impact on their lives.
In one post, James Bell wrote that Kamus inspired him and helped him along in his military and law enforcement career. “He was passionate about his work and always did his best,” he added in the post. “He was a mentor and a great friend no matter what the condition.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with Wayne at the City and also at Intergraph where he was my supervisor,” wrote Kelly Rolin. “A great man and friend who will be missed. Praying his family finds comfort and healing during this difficult time.”
John Munroe, another Intergraph coworker, wrote that Kamus was “a great person to be around, a hard worker and always had a positive attitude.”
Matt Balch said in his post that he had the pleasure of knowing Kamus on both a personal and a professional level. “He was a fine officer and a good man. The City of Madison was dealt a huge blow with his passing. We thank him for his service and sincerely hope that his loved ones find comfort in the knowledge that although his watch has ended, his impact will be felt forever.”
As Jernigan noted how wonderful Kamus was with kids, Brandi Nance wrote in the guestbook about how kind Kamus was in spending time with the Girl Scouts in her troop earlier this year. “Lt. Kamus was kind enough to sit with the teen Girl Scouts in my troop and teach them what new drivers need to know and answer all their driving questions,” she wrote. “He was patient and kind. What a terrible loss. He will be remembered fondly by me and my troop.”
In another post in the guestbook, Chris McRae shared many of his own fond memories and impressions of Kamus, as well as positive things he heard from others he knew.
“A humble gentleman who long served the Madison community as a police officer, police supervisor, and police commander,” McRae wrote of Kamus. “Wayne was instrumental in organizing our neighborhood watch program, and I know he was involved in many other community activities. I last saw him a few Saturdays ago supervising Madison Police Departments drug-take back event, and a neighbor recently told me of the highly positive impact that Wayne made on my neighbors elementary-aged granddaughter during a community event at the Madison Library. I also know from mutual friends and from my son who worked for Wayne at MPD, how respected Wayne was with his peers for his work ethic, particularly during his recent tireless efforts executing the Chiefs goal to earn professional accreditation for the MPD. Thank you Wayne for your service to our community. Well done, rest in peace.”
A few of Kamus’ family members also shared a few words about him in the online guestbook, with his uncle calling him “the best person.” His brother, Ray, wrote that he was there for people when they were at their lowest and needed him.
“He’s going to be missed. He’s absolutely going to be missed,” Jernigan said. “He’s just a very, very high-caliber individual always concerned about doing things right, following policy, doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. That’s the definition of character, and he was at the highest character.”
Kamus leaves behind his wife, Lori, and a brother and sister. He is also missed by numerous friends, coworkers, acquaintances and extended family members.