By PETTUS READ
For the next several weeks I'm involved in my county sheriff's citizen academy, where I have the opportunity to learn a whole lot about a department that most of us take for granted, except when we need them to get us out of a bad situation. Now this academy is not going to make me into my hero Cordell Walker from Walker Texas Ranger fame, but it will give me insight into the day-to-day operation of the sheriff's department, communications, problems that affect our county concerning drugs and see what it is like on the other side of the badge.
This year's class, number 47, is a pretty good-sized one, made up of individuals of all walks of life, with myself being the only county commissioner. I'm there because I thought it would be good to see where the tax dollars go and help me make the right decisions when it comes to providing for the protection of our citizens, as well as the law enforcement personnel. I also have to admit I look forward to the "ride along" with an officer one evening and getting to fire a firearm in the new firing range, but most importantly, to understand what these enforcers of today's laws have to go through. You have always heard you never know what the other guy feels until you walk in his shoes. I'm just trying them on to see how they fit.
This bit of training will also show me the problems my county is experiencing with narcotics, gangs and crimes that I never would have thought occurs here, only in major metropolitan cities. Big time crime has come to the country and we, as a population, need to be aware of what its warning signals are. The rural countryside is the perfect place for the production of methamphetamine, better known by most of us as meth, and we need to know what to watch for, and most importantly, what to stay away from.
Today's law enforcement has its hands full and with the new thinking process of society they also must operate in a different manner from days gone by. Their job is one that takes special people and individuals who must deal with problems that can change from our worst nightmare to an opportunity that makes someone's day the best ever. Each day that they pin on those badges I'm sure they have to wonder what will be waiting for them outside the door and when they take them off after a 14-hour shift will their rest be one of peace or a time of replay of the day's happenings.
During the next session of the academy, I have the chance to do a mock up of a stopped automobile. After seeing what I'm to do in this circumstance, I will be told to walk up beside the car and check out those inside. Of course this is not for real, but these are deputies with weapons that do shoot and can sting pretty good, so you have to be careful. Understand, I'm a writer and not Walker Texas Ranger, so I will probably be shot at, but I will remind them that I am the commissioner on the committee that approves their budget each year, so hopefully ink by the barrel, along with votes, will be stronger than bullets. I guarantee this ole farm boy will be peeking real carefully into that car window.
Over my years as a writer, I have had the chance to take some of these walks to see for myself what others do so I can better understand their roles in their occupations. I'll never forget walking the mock up of Baghdad at Fort Campbell where the 101st train and seeing what they go through to learn their missions. I gained a real understanding, appreciation and total respect of our fighting force.
I've even gone through a hot sauce plant in New Mexico to see what those workers do behind the scenes where the peppers are ground into a really fine powder. I'll never forget that day and how my sinus problem was cleared and my breathing turned into a four-alarm fire. I really appreciate those workers doing that job so my tacos will be just right.
I understand you don't have to go out and do what everyone else does just to appreciate their work. Often, we become so complacent and totally involved in ourselves that we forget to realize that these servants of the people, who are out there at all hours watching after our welfare, do exist and have families also. Next time one of them stops you, don't tell them you pay their salary, because they may ask you for a raise. Instead, put your feet in their shoes.
-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org