To protect and to serve. That is the role that police officers play in our community.
But those are only words unless there is open communication, complete understanding and a genuine give-and-take between both sides. It is the community’s responsibility to know the challenges that police officers face and the difficulties associated with their work, in much the same way it is police officers’ responsibility to know the community they serve.
Those are the values that Jim Biever exuded, his family says, and that’s how Biever led his life. That’s the legacy he left behind.
That’s what the Biever Family Police Scholarship Fund is really all about.
Established in August 2020, the Biever Family Police Scholarship Fund celebrates the life of former Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Jim Biever by helping to defray costs of local men and women pursuing a career in law enforcement. But in the bigger picture, the scholarship’s mission is to erode the boundaries between police officers and the communities they protect.
On Aug. 12, 2020, Biever died at age 56, following a three-month battle with duodenal carcinoma, a rare form of cancer of the small intestine.
“The overall vision of our fund is to see police and citizens working along side each other,” Noel Biever, Cpl. Biever’s daughter and the secretary and treasurer of the Biever Family Police Scholarship Fund, explained. “We want to do it through empathy, trust and unity between the police and the citizens of Lebanon County by creating this scholarship that will benefit someone who is interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. We also want to do it through continuing education and training for police officers.
“He came up with this idea for a scholarship fund because he wanted to help someone who wanted to become a police officer,” she added. “He wanted other people to have the same opportunities he had. He loved being a police officer. He spoke about it all the time.”
Monies from the Biever Family Police Scholarship Fund will provide financial assistance for qualified men and women seeking certification through the Act 120 Municipal Police Officer Education and Training program, one of the requirements for becoming a police officer in Pennsylvania. The Bievers have also set up the James Biever Criminal Justice Award, a one-time $1,000 scholarship presented to Lebanon County high school seniors looking to pursue a college degree in criminal justice.
“Dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer in May of 2020,” his daughter said. “At that time, he came up with the idea of the foundation to leave a legacy. Originally, he was going to head it himself. But he went into hospice in August, so we wanted to see his idea come to fruition.
“We could’ve stopped with the scholarship. But I think he really wanted to see his dream put into action. We saw the struggles and the toll it took on him. He was always unsettled. There were times when he had to go to work, and we would stay with our mom.”
The Biever family seeks to fund the scholarship through personal donations from like-minded members of the Lebanon community. They also will stage the inaugural Jim Biever Memorial 5K run on Saturday morning, Aug. 14, on the Lebanon Valley Rail-to-Trail at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center.
The fundraising event will commemorate the anniversary of Biever’s passing and will be conducted on a Lebanon County resource where he spent much of his free time.
“We are working with all the police departments in Lebanon County, but specifically the Lebanon city police department,” Noel Biever, a 26-year-old resident of Lebanon, said. “We want to help the police whenever they want to hire someone. We’ve already received a lot of support through donations. But we also want to have one big fundraiser a year.
“I think police’s role in our community is enforcers of the law,” she continued. “They keep everything in check. We sent out a survey to all the police chiefs in Lebanon County to assess their needs. I think the police’s job is just to keep a check on the community and make sure that everyone is safe.”
The case became a rallying point for racial injustice in the United States and helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement. But it also put a negative light on law enforcement in general, while indirectly exposing the inherent difficulties of the job that police officers are charged with on a daily basis.
“He was a fair guy,” said Biever of her father. “But he also wanted police to understand their community and why people might be afraid of police officers. It’s a two-way street.
“Overall, one of our goals is to paint police in a good light,” she continued. “We want to get the whole community involved and continue to grow Lebanon County. We just hope to continue to provide the funding, so we can help police officers. We want open communication between the police and the community. We just want complete transparency.”
A retired corporal, Jim Biever was a state police officer, who served with pride, honor and integrity for 25 years, his family said. He was a 1982 graduate of Cedar Crest High School, and he attended Lebanon Valley College before embarking on his law enforcement career.
Biever began his work as a police officer at the state police barracks in Limerick, but spent the majority of his career stationed at the state police barracks in Jonestown.
“He was a very beloved guy,” his daughter said. “Whenever anyone was looking for answers or advice, he would always tell them ‘WWJBD – What Would Jim Biever Do?’ It became his motto. It was funny, but he was always a man of integrity. He always made sure to do things the right way.
“He was just always liked to follow the rules. He was a stand-up guy. He wanted to serve his community.”
But Biever was also a friend, a husband, a father and a God-fearing man, she said. He was a different person out of uniform, but he always carried his values with him wherever he went.
“We admired him as a dad and a person in general,” Noel Biever said. “He made us very proud. If we were to describe him as a person, it would be as someone who would do anything for anyone.”
To learn more about the Biever Family Police Scholarship Fund, go to bfpsf.org.
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