I can still remember the day I put my uniform on for the first time. I looked in the mirror to make sure the badge was straight, the uniform was pressed, and my shoes were shined. I was so excited to hit the street and fight crime in my community. Thirty-five years later I can honestly say that I have never lost that initial excitement and the belief that the people of this community deserve to be safe in their homes and in their neighborhoods.
My career started much like any other law enforcement career; driving a patrol car in my assigned district, and because I had no seniority, it was often very, very dark outside. Responding to prowlers, drunk drivers, and family fights eventually became routine. Because I felt a strong desire to be where the action was and to be the one who caught the bad guy, I decided to become a K9 handler. Titan and I apprehended many felons during our time together, and yes, many of those felons got to know Titan very well and have the scars to show it.
I also joined the SWAT team, first as team member (or operator in SWAT lingo) and then as the commander of the whole team. Many of our callouts were for barricaded and wanted felons, and some were for true hostage situations. Perhaps the most significant event during my SWAT career occurred when Officer Chris LeBlanc was shot while conducting a crisis entry I had ordered in response to a hostage takers threat to harm his hostage. Chris survived this shooting but it was a reminder to all of us that what we do for a living is extremely dangerous. We pray often for the surviving family members of our fallen brothers and sisters.
My experience as a street cop, K9 handler, and SWAT operator prepared me for my transition into a command level position. As a commander and assistant chief, I knew that the respect of my troops needed to be earned and not demanded due simply to my rank. I earned that respect by not losing sight of where I’d come from. Even today I would be happy to put on the uniform of that rookie street cop I was many years ago, check that my badge was straight, my uniform pressed, and that my shoes were shined. Fighting crime was my primary job as street cop and as your Sheriff, it will still be my primary job.