COMMENTARY: Lost Opportunity For Kids, A Challenge To Make it Right

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Recently the Cannon County School Board turned down an offer by Constable Jim Gibbs to bring an anti violence gang resistance program to Woodbury Grammar School.

Many people and most law enforcement experts will tell you that gang activity is their number one crime concern. Gangs are no longer just a big city problem; they now operate in the smallest of towns nationwide. Gangs and gang violence remain a growing cancer in our society. Gangs recruit members at a very young age, in our schools and as a condition to join they are either savagely beat, or in the case of girls, raped.

The program that Gibbs was offering is a product of the U.S. Department of Justice and with Gibbs volunteering his teaching services, the program would have been absolutely FREE. Referred to as G.R.E.A.T., (Gang Resistance Education and Training), the program also deals with the issue of bullying.

Bullying begins in elementary school and peaks in middle school. Nine out of 10 cases of bullying are NOT reported, and 80-90% of adolescents reported being bullied during their school years. 71% of teachers surveyed maintained that they always intervene during such situations. However, 71% of students didn’t report bullying because they don’t think teachers care!

Over the past 10 years zero tolerance offenses have risen in Tennessee schools. Those offenses include drug possession or use, firearms possession and battery against staff members, and they generally result in transfer to an alternative school, expulsion or some other discipline.

The Cannon County School District has to realize that there is a concern as they recently paid for an entertaining program called “STAMP Out Bullying” presented by Jay Banks. Funds were made available for the program by Middle Tennessee Electric.

When the school board voted to decline the offer from Gibbs, Chairman Randy Gannon influenced the other board members with an alleged quote from what he referred to as “local law enforcement” that the program “was not needed” and that “local law enforcement “didn’t want to see it happen”.

Chief of Police Tony Burnett was asked about his part in this lost opportunity for the kids of Cannon County. He said Gannon misquoted him. Chief Burnett denied saying that there wasn’t a need for the program; he just did not want a constable teaching the program. Chief Burnett stated that if the program was going to be taught, he wanted “local law enforcement” teaching it.

Burnett obviously does not seem to understand that constables are local law enforcement officers. Gibbs is more than qualified to teach the program and had already made the contacts to start it. Gibbs entered law enforcement the same year that Tony Burnett was born, and Gibbs obtained a degree in criminal justice before Tony completed grade school. Not only does Chief Burnett have less experience and law enforcement education than Gibbs, but only a couple of Woodbury police officers even qualify under the Department of Justice Guidelines for instructors. Furthermore, Woodbury police only have jurisdiction in Woodbury. Constables are countywide elected law enforcement officers.

When Tony Burnett became Chief of Police he cancelled the DARE program at the schools. He cited budget reasons for stopping the DARE program while at the same time proceeded to purchase new police cars and other occasionally used equipment such as a radar speed trailer, a trailer for road blocks and an SUV to pull it.

It is a terrible thing when ignorance and petty politics interfere with the welfare of our children. Whether it is inexperience, lack of education or just simple arrogance; Chief Burnett’s interference with the constable’s efforts to bring a free anti violence, anti bullying program to Cannon County Schools was wrong and caused a lost opportunity for Cannon children to learn to be safe at no cost whatsoever to the school district.

Constable Gibbs said, “I now challenge the Chief to make room in his budget and bring G.R.E.A.T., or a comparable program to the kids of Cannon County. After all, they really do deserve to be safe.”
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June 27, 2010 at 3:06pm
Mr. Gibbs should get his facts straight before posting them. The radar speed trailer, trailer for road blockx nor the SUV to pull it were purchased with money from the budget. These items were all purchased through a grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Office. And everyone needs a new car from time to time. Vehicles wear out when 2 officers share the same vehicle. Chief Burnett works hard for the City of Woodbury. The last time I checked a Constable wasn't even required to go to the Law Enforcement Training Academy. We have SRO's at Woodbury Grammar and Cannon Co. High School that could teach these programs. We also have Sheriff Deputies that could teach this program to the schools out in the county.
June 27, 2010 at 4:58pm
I think if I have to read one more article about the world famous, world traveller, Wyatt Earp wannabe Jim Gibbs I am going to puke!

Thanks for the offer to teach our kids, but no thanks.

When are you ever going to realize the people of Cannon County do not want your services in law enforcement and if anyone would run for constable besides you in your district you would not even be able to hold that office.

Thanks Jim, but it is time you retired.
June 27, 2010 at 7:44pm
With current Budget restraints it is foolish not to use every resource available to Cannon County. People elect Constables every four years, and I believe they are a valuable asset if you use them corectly. The City Police and Sheriff's Department do not use them WHY? Yes I understand that most of the newer Constables do not have the same training as certified officers, but how much Training do you need if you want to help people? How much training does a new mother or father take when their child is born to be a professional parent? NONE but for someone like Jim Gibbs who has more training and has been through several academies in his law enforcement career than most sheriff's and City Officers in this county. Don't complain about not having enough manning in your Dept. or money in the budget if you cannot use the resources you already have. It does cost tax payers more money when a City Officer or County Deputies goes in to a school to teach various programs and the budget reflects this cost every year. The more you do with a paid employee the more it cost, but when you elect a constable the more you include him in the training that you do in each department prepares them to help with offering their no cost service to the community.

I know when I was a vol. Fireman I did not have to go through the full fire school to provide my help so I ask what is different in the two. Both positions have a duty to the public and are responsible for saving peoples life’s , property and interacting with the public on a professional level. So if this is the Chief’s belief then we need to start paying Vol. Firemen just like the local law enforcement. Yes some are certified per state standards but not all of them. The only difference is they work together and have a true interest in the public where local law enforcement is to good to associate with constable’s.

What needs to happen is Local law enforcement needs to meet with Constables and come up with ideas of where the services of constables can be a true asset to the community by helping people and saving the county money. You will get more bang for the buck if you set aside you’re foolish beliefs about what they are trained for and utilize them to better the community just as others counties are doing.

Jib Gibbs: I understand that it is hard to take a step forward and help the citizens of this county if you continue to run in to brick walls. I believe that constables have a lot to offer and urge you to continue moving forward regardless of what people believe. I applaud you for offering your time and money to be a Tennessee Constable for free, and if I am ever in need of help I will not hesitate to call for unit 901.
June 28, 2010 at 2:58pm
Instead of arguing over who is qualified to teach our children to be safe, someone just needs to teach them. Parents need to do their part at home, but some outside help is good too. Quit the fighting over who it needs to be and someone just step up to the plate for once for the children of our community.
June 28, 2010 at 8:21pm
To proudcitizen: I am not saying that Chief Burnett doesn’t work hard. However, he just undermined a needed program -- I guess because it was me or because it was offered by a constable. This is not about me or my authority as a constable; it is about school and law enforcement administrators failing the kids in this community. Just when you think you know your kids – they will surprise you. You need to prepare yourself; it will come to Cannon County. Take a look at this video of a gang initiation beat down and imagine it being your son or your grandson. By the way, girls can choose between the beat down and being gang raped. The link to the video is - --- I realize that grant money was used for the trailers --- Grant money is also available for the anti violence program that I offered ---- I made it clear in the School Board Workshop that I wanted to serve as a catalyst for the program and hoped that WPD and CCSO would take it over. I don’t care who teaches it --- Just get it done.
June 29, 2010 at 6:51am
Jim, when will you ever understand that the citizens of Cannon County do not want your services? When will you ever understand we don't want you as our Sheriff, our school teacher or as our dog catcher?

Thanks for the offer, but NO to everything you will ever ask to do ever again.

When you think you want to run for something, train us on something, offer your vast experience as a law enforcement to us, or whatever.


At some point you need to write that down and pull it out of your pocket when you need a refresher.
June 29, 2010 at 8:21am
Hey Jimmy P --- Guess what --- I’m elected and I have all the authority that goes with my office. I am elected by the citizens (oh-oh – How did that happen). I don’t work for the sheriff or the chief of police. If you don’t want my services – that is ok with me, you still have your sheriff – or maybe you even work there – heck I don’t know!! . I will use my authority to help those that can use the help. --- I think you may be surprised by the support that I do have to protect the kids in this county. --- And let’s see -- I trained volunteer firemen and rescue squad members at Short Mountain – CPR in Bradyville --- I guess everybody didn’t get your memo.
June 29, 2010 at 2:50pm
OK OK Jim, I am not going to get in a email war with you.

You keep referring to yourself in the 3rd person, you keep on training and keep on running for constable every four years, because this is obviously all you have in life.

You keep on writing articles and wondering why no one wants your services.

You do all that and we as the citizens of this county will keep on saying NO to your offers and laughing at you every time you write another goofy article!
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