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Officer John P. Kalaman

Centerville Ohio Police Department
End of Watch:01/12/1998

Officer John P Kalaman


John Kalaman was a people person. After he died, his friends would tell his parents that he was equally comfortable sitting on a park bench chatting with a stranger as he was sitting in the same spot talking to a dignitary. “He just made people feel at home and comfortable and accepted for who and what they were,” said his mother, Paula Kalaman.

“He loved people,” Paula said. “He did not take himself seriously. He took the job seriously – he was always the professional, with his shoes shined and his uniform pressed.”

Law enforcement was not a foregone conclusion for John. A “ferocious reader,” as his father, also John, recalled, he had especially enjoyed writers like John LeCarre and Robert Ludlum and histories of World War II and the Civil War. Initially, he toyed with the idea of applying to the CIA or joining the military. At the University of Cincinnati he started out studying engineering until, as he told his father, he realized that “engineering doesn’t like me and I don’t like engineering.” He shifted his focus to political science and shortly after graduating, he joined the Centerville, Ohio Police Department.

“When he pinned his police badge on it looked like he was glowing,” Paul remembered. John had always liked helping people, so it was a good fit, but he had a keen awareness of the job’s dangers. When he first got the job, he told Paula that Centerville had never lost an officer in the line of duty – and that he could be the first. “A sixth sense? A premonition? I don’t know where it came from but it didn’t stop him from getting up and going to work every day,” Paula said.

One January day in 1998, John was checking on injured victims at a crash site on the side of Interstate 675 when another vehicle lost control and hit him, killing him and another first responder. 

That wasn’t the end of John’s story. “He would in all honesty be humbled by so many of the things that have happened since his death,” Paula said. “He would say, ‘I don’t know that I deserve this.’” Spurred by the accident, Ohio enacted its “Move Over” law the following year, requiring drivers to shift a lane over when passing a vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road. Each year the Centerville Police Department hosts a blood drive and a charity golf tournament in his name. The former has collected nearly 4,500 blood units while the latter has funded almost 70 scholarships to the tune of more than $370,000.

Visiting John’s grave one day, Paula struck up a conversation with a young man paying his respects. He said how much he had respected her son and she asked if they had been on the Centerville police force together. “Oh no, Ma’am,” the mourner said. “I’m on the other side of the law.” John just had that kind of way about him.

“I tell people he’s not done yet – he’s still making a difference,” Paula said. “He’s still giving back to his community through other people.”



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