When Tim Eppstein ’96 first attended the Mount to become a Roman Catholic priest, he probably didn’t imagine that he’d become a S.W.A.T negotiator and a sergeant.

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A theology major with intentions of joining the priesthood, Eppstein says he ultimately decided that he one day wanted a family. Still committed to a life of service, he switched to socio/psychology with a minor in philosophy, and later earned a master’s in community counseling from the University of Cincinnati.

“No matter where my career went, I knew I wanted to do jobs that would give back and make the world better,” Eppstein says.

In 1994, Eppstein gave a lecture at Camp Joy, a nonprofit that runs programs for disadvantaged youth. For 29 years he’s been an integral part of the organization, leading experiential education for adult programs. The Cincinnati Police Department recruited him at Camp Joy.

“I was always impressed with their professionalism and their training staff… and policing really seemed like it would fit my interest and skills,” Eppstein says. “So after a few years of mulling it over, I decided to join.”

When he became a police officer in 2003, he noticed that many colleagues had become cynical and unhappy over time. He sought out officers close to retirement who were still full of life and inquired how they stayed happy. Their responses came down to three things: Don’t overwork yourself; find a spiritual or positive community space; and develop an identity beyond the uniform. For Eppstein, that advice would become paramount when coping with the difficulties that come with the job.

On September 6, 2018, tragedy struck when an active shooter killed three people and wounded two others in the lobby of the Fifth Third Bank building on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Eppstein’s wife worked at Fifth Third Bank and was in the building when the mass shooting occurred.

“I was a couple of blocks away in a meeting when she texted me,” Eppstein says. “I saw the message and ran to address the situation.”

Eppstein later received the Police Chief ’s Award for Distinguished Service for arriving on the scene and assisting in the clearing of part of the building that day. He also rendered life-saving aid to victims of the incident.

Today, Eppstein is a sergeant, S.W.A.T negotiator, and supervisor of the Place Based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories (PIVOT) program. He’s the neighborhood patrol officer in Over-the-Rhine and works heavily with social workers and the homeless population to bridge a relationship of trust. By partnering with organizations like Shelterhouse he brings resources to those experiencing homelessness and helps train staff.

“These trainings have allowed staff to learn, practice, and apply de-escalation techniques when working with our homeless clients that provide everyone with a safe and secure environment,” says Jim Armbruster II, director of shelter operations at Shelterhouse. “Tim has been a tireless advocate for the street homeless, working to get them sheltered day and night. Tim has this unique ability to truly meet people where they’re at and communicate with them… he is one of a kind in my opinion and his efforts continue to help countless people.”