Getting to know the Franklin PD

Published 10:17 am Saturday, April 11, 2009

* Second in a series

I have enjoyed getting to know our Franklin police officers and what they do officially as well as their voluntary contributions throughout the community.

It is important to differentiate special professional duties for officers from their regularly assigned duties. This separates those duties from the routine while allowing us to see the impact of these officers on the police force itself. At the same time, it gives us an opportunity to examine a very special niche where we need to acknowledge the voluntary efforts and accomplishments of our police for their participation in community organizations, programs and events throughout the city. The extent of their participation is far more than most citizens ever realize, as you will see by the listing of some of these efforts both individually and by group.

Chief Phil Hardison

In addition to daily running the Franklin Police Department, Chief Hardison handles much of the public information regarding the department as well being the public image for all of our police. There are numerous things that could be written about his responsibilities and work in the community, but this has to be limited in this discourse. Above all, he is dedicated to making Franklin a safe and secure city for all residents.

It is most important to tell you that in the past several months he has put together an informative presentation on crime in this community and has presented it to a number of civic and religious organizations. Those who have seen and heard his discussion have been mightily impressed, and many have stepped forward to willingly help get this message to all citizens in Franklin, including presenting him with funds to carry on with the program.

When you have the privilege of hearing and seeing the necessity for what is being proposed for the safety and well-being of all citizens of Franklin, I believe you will be an ardent supporter of this program.

Deputy Chief Bruce Edwards

Deputy Chief Edwards is a local boy, born and raised in Franklin, and has served with the city police force more than 31 years. He has a historical knowledge second to none with regard to the city’s culture, makeup and specific needs.

In his official capacity, he plays a critical role in the operation of the police force, carrying out the responsibilities assigned by the chief for all facets of the department. He also has an official role in making sure the officer needs are met to host events and promote public safety throughout the city. It has been said that when he and Mickey Futrell retire, it will take a fully equipped and knowledgeable task force to come in and write the manual for operation of the computer and electrical systems in the entire complex.

Edwards is widely known for the Back to School Bash he hosted at Suburban Gardens for the citizens and students of Franklin. He spent the whole day cooking for this well-attended event. He helps most all events be a great success.

Lt. T. W. Whitt

A huge part of Lt. Whitt’s endeavors as leader of the Uniform Patrol Division of the police force has to do with scheduling of officers and making certain that each shift is fully staffed. Under the direction of Lt. Whitt, the squad sergeants each selected a problem-solving project to benefit a certain area of the city. The squads worked with various city departments, businesses and citizens in their selected areas to make a positive impact on the quality of life for the residents.

In 2008 there were no serious injuries or deaths to any officers or staff while at the same time there were no civilians seriously injured or killed during contacts with police.

Lt. Whitt continues his work with the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority as well as working with the Office of Community Development.

The officers in Lt. Whitt’s group continue to help establish and build relationships with Neighborhood Watch Groups.

Sgt. Ronnie McClenny

One of the longtime officers under Lt. Whitt, Sgt. Ronnie McClenny, in addition to his patrol duties, continues to participate in the Downtown Business Watch that was begun in 2006.

In 2008, he completed a project with the assistance of the Downtown Franklin Association and Vic’s Signs that was designed to assist downtown businesses in identifying criminals who entered their respective businesses. By engraving color-coded height strips and placing them on door frames, this could help owners and employees determine the height of the criminal.

Sgt. McClenny, a member of the police force since 1985, has been selected as a member of the board for the operation of the Downtown Farmers Market, which will open soon. In addition, Sgt. McClenny received a Star Performer Award for his efforts in working with the city attorney to enact a new ordinance that would help the city receive reimbursement for expenses relating to drunken-driving incidents.

The city initiated the no-idle policy, which was implemented and followed by the police department. Sgt. McClenny took upon himself to keep track of the hours the officers on his shift would cut the vehicles off and do community checks. The three-member shift accumulated 345 hours of down time for the period of July through December. This incorporated figuring out the time a police car engine could be safely shut down and not interfere with a high-quality performance by the many electronic devices installed in those vehicles.

Sgt. Brent O. Gayle

Sgt. Gayle came to the Franklin police force in 1997 from Isle of Wight and serves as a sergeant of one of the four patrols under Lt. Whitt.

He and his wife are very active in their church and specifically with Eastern Shore Missions. This organization restores houses for needy residents in the community. They also travel to Cuba on church missions during his free time.

Sgt. Patrick Wilson

Sgt. Wilson is a longtime member of the Franklin Police Force and the leader of one of the patrols. His career has included service in Iraq. Earlier in his career he was a patrol officer with the City of Portsmouth before coming to Franklin.

Sgt. Gary Falls

Sgt. Falls, a 10-year veteran of the Franklin force, leads the third patrol and is a Vietnam veteran. He started his police career with the Norfolk Police Department and later went to the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office. Sgt. Falls served as a school resource officer in Franklin Public Schools before being promoted to his present rank.

Other patrol officers are:

■ Cpl. H. K. Rose, who has served since 1999 and came from the Southampton Department of Corrections and worked in the jail for Southampton Sheriff’s Office.

Cpl. Rose, in addition to his official duties, is an extremely active member of the community. First, he is pastor of Pine Level Baptist Church in Capron, the Franklin and Vicinity Ministerial Conference and Angels on a Mission. He is also involved with the Southampton County Ministers, whose mission is to help them better understand the ways and means that churches can help eliminate violence in parishioners’ homes and the community which is so often related to drugs.

■ Cpl. Joe Unser, who has served since 2002, is a member of Ruritan Club and volunteers for various charities as a cook.

■ Cpl. Scott Halverson, who has served since 2006, retired from the Norfolk Police Department. He is a licensed polygraph operator; a first for the City of Franklin.

■ Officer Albert Herdeg, who has served since 2006, previously worked for Western Tidewater Regional Jail as corrections and transportation officer.

■ Officer Joseph Spurling, who has served since 2006, came from the Hampton University P.D.

■ Officer Joshua Butts came to the Franklin Police Department last year from the Suffolk Police Department.

■ Officer Quentin M. Livingston was recognized for his efforts in saving the life of a heart-attack victim and going beyond the call of duty securing lodging for a mother and child who were stranded in Franklin without money or food during one of the coldest nights of the winter.

■ Officer Judson Robinson came to Franklin last year after retiring from the Portsmouth Police Department.

■ New officers are David Greer, Todd Lyons, Serena White, Holly Smith, Adam Cornwell, Randall Bailey and Rodney Little. Smith, Cornwell, Bailey and Little are veterans of the Iraq War.

Sgt. Mark A. Cornell

In the past year, Sgt. Cornell, special operations director, has focused his efforts on recruiting quality police officers through the Internet and other sources that aid in finding qualified applicants. At the same time he is addressing retention.

During the year he has assisted with Franklin Department of Social Services’ “Kids Day” and the YMCA’s “Healthy Kids Day.” He participated in the annual jobs fair at the Paul D. Camp Workforce Development Center.

In August he set up and participated in the second annual “National Night Out” program. In October, Sgt. Cornell scheduled manpower for all events during the Fall Festival. He conducted juvenile-safety talks for Cub Scouts of America in November at High Street United Methodist Church.

In December it’s the “Cops for Kids Toy Drive,” and Sgt. Cornell’s accomplishments are too numerous to list. However, the drive raised more than $18,000 and assisted more than 100 children. Sgt. McClenny has been as active participant in this project and has personally raised considerable funds in the past, particularly through asking donors to give unused gift cards to the project.

Detective Sgt. KENNY Barham

Sgt. Barham, who leads the Detective Division and has served since 2000, has completed three semesters at Paul D. Camp Community College in addition to leadership training at Virginia Tech. He has Tazer certification and asset-forfeiture training. He has also attended the Department of Forensic Science. In addition he has conducted background investigations for police applicants. Sgt. Barham helps with Neighborhood Watch programs and National Night Out. He was previously with Southampton.

■ Detective Cpl. Frank Justus was promoted to his present rank in February 2008 and is an active member of the Franklin Police Emergency Team. He assists with firearms qualifications of new recruits at Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Academy and police officers on the local level, as well as officers on the federal and state levels. He was previously with Southampton.

■ Detective Michael Greenwell is a member of this group with training at the Virginia Gang Association Conference in addition to narcotics training and criminal investigation training.

■ Detective Karl Boone joined the department in 2008, coming from the Hampton Police Department, where he served four years. He was a 20-year Air Force veteran.