Behind the badge: Part IV

Published 12:16 pm Saturday, November 21, 2015

An inside look at the professional lives of the Franklin Police

An inside look at the professional lives of the Franklin Police

The purpose of this series has been to help the community understand what Franklin police officers experience on a regular basis and how the job affects all parts of their lives. The intention was for the public to be able to see and find out things about the police that perhaps they didn’t know or hadn’t considered.

All of the members in the Franklin Police Department that I talked to agreed that more than anything, they want the public and the police to be with each other, not against each other, because if things don’t change, they fear what the future will look like. They want to help the community, but they said they need the community to help them.

Many of them had particular messages that they wanted to give to the public.

Some of their comments focused on helping the public understand why it is so important that they comply with police officers when necessary.

“There are other avenues for your grievances other than with me on the side of the road right now. Your life depends on it and so does mine,” Sgt. Todd Lyons said. “It’s not just your life and my life. They have kids, they have family, we have kids and we have family — grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters. Comply — and if you have a grievance — deal with that in the appropriate forum. But right now, on the side of the road, is not the appropriate forum.”

Some of their responses focused more on trying to get the public to change the new perception that some have of the police.

“If it’s for both the community and law enforcement, we have to get away from the us-versus-them mentality. We have to eliminate it,” Cpl. Josh Butts said. “I look at Facebook and I look at the national media and you see this ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ It’s like a battle and they’re just fighting each other to figure out which life matters most. I think if you took a poll amongst all the police officers across the United States, the overwhelming majority would say every life on this planet matters. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, it doesn’t matter what your classification is, it doesn’t matter how much money you make, each life is just as important as the other. We are going to fight and protect each life just importantly as the other. We have got to get rid of the us-versus-them mentality.”

Lyons added, “The second thing I’d like to say is, ‘Don’t judge me by the clothes I’m wearing.’ Just because I have a blue shirt on and a shiny badge on the front of it, doesn’t mean that I’m the police officer in Sacramento, California, that took $100,000 out of the police explorer fund. It doesn’t mean that I’m the police officer in Tupelo, Mississippi, that shot the unarmed guy that was running away from him. I am me and I’m going to treat you with the same level of respect that I would want to be treated with. And if you comply with me, then we are going to get along great. But don’t judge me automatically by the clothes I’m wearing, because I’m here to help you, regardless of what you may think. I would much rather have a conversation with you, than go down a road of using force or something to that nature.”

Other answers were directly about reassuring the community that the police want to help them.

“Let us serve you. We got in this job because we wanted to serve people, let us serve you,” Cpl. Chris Thomas said. “If you have an issue in your neighborhood, a lot of times we aren’t going to know about it unless you call us and give us information to let us help you. You don’t have to give us a name, but that information might be that one little piece of the puzzle that is going to let us serve you better. Let us help you.”

Butts added, “We enjoy fighting crime; however, it requires help from the citizens to tell us where a specific criminal element may be operating in their community.

“If you tell us, ‘Hey, I’m having a problem here,’ I can assure you resources will be sent from this agency to help you deal with that problem.”

On the other hand, some of their comments pinpointed what the future looks like if the police and citizens aren’t on the same side and continue down the path that the two groups seem to be going down.

“The day you no longer have the caliber of persons sitting before you right now, watching guard over their communities, will be the day of total, societal collapse,” Capt. Tim Witt said. “When you no longer have these types of people, doing the job that they do, will be the day you see this country collapse totally. Because when it comes right down to it, they are the only thing standing between good and bad.”