When it snowed we would slide down what used to be Cates’ Hill on an old Buick car hood. Or, we would slide down the street on a piece of cardboard, where the new Mayfield School is now located. On Cates’ Hill, several of us boys would load up on the car hood and fly down the steep hill, with most of us being thrown off before reaching the bottom.
Across the road from Cates’ Hill in the same general area, behind where present-day Spring Creek Plaza stands, existed a luscious blackberry patch during the summer. My brother Cecil and I spent many hours in that blackberry patch gathering berries for our mother to make jellies, jams and cobbler for us, which would last all winter.
We played ball year-round, many times from morning to late light. Streets back then were safe, the neighbors were good people and many friendships from those days have lasted a lifetime. We owned the streets of Cleveland; it was our playground, our warm, safe world. It was the good old days, indeed. The 1950s and ’60s were a good time to be growing up.
As everything changed, we became men and put away childish things. Most of us left the old neighborhood, some to marry, some to work, some to educational pursuits and others to war in Asia. A few were never to find their way home again.
We are the sum total of all our experiences.
I am richer for having good parents, dedicated school teachers, and tough but compassionate cops who were looking out for me, even when I was not aware.
I have had some strict supervisors who made me get it right. The many conflicts I faced as a young cop, almost daily, helped me to learn how to handle controversy and differences. I learned how to live without becoming bitter and cynical, although I was continually exposed to the underbelly of society.
When I began my career in law enforcement we did not have the equipment we have now for self-protection. We learned how to protect ourselves and, also, how to subdue offenders through on-the-job training. Then, with each confrontation or fight I got better. Then, by the time I made supervisor, I had gained enough experience to be good at handling most any type of confrontation.
During these early years many law-enforcement administrators were emphasizing the need for higher education. Chief Bernard Snyder encouraged officers to continue our education. Thus, I began many long hours of my off-duty time attending classes, first at Cleveland State, then UTC accompanied by many hours of study. Along this journey of work and study I learned compassion, which I am still working on.
Conflicts and confrontations still happen almost daily. I suppose that is true in every walk of life or career. Law enforcement, by its very nature, always has a raw edge to the conflict and confrontation. The fuse is always short. The bomb, so to speak, can go off any minute. It has the potential to become deadly without warning.
As I have worked my way up in rank I find the conflicts and chances for confrontations grow stronger. Again, that is the nature of this business. You learn to live with it and diffuse these explosive situations when possible. You also learn to leave these unpleasant thoughts at work. You get recharged being with loved ones and hanging out with good people who are good friends.
As sheriff, all of these pleasant and unpleasant experiences have shaped my worldview, as I face the challenges and conflicts of the sheriff’s duties and responsibilities.
As hokey or corn pone as it may sound, my top priority is keeping the people of Bradley County safe. When I was a young rookie cop for Cleveland that was my agenda, and that is my agenda now.
When I take issue with others who hold responsible positions in government it is not a personal attack. But, it is an effort to show our bosses, the residents of the county, a flawed public policy. Also, I want to show how that flawed policy is hurting the peace and safety of our community.
There are many future victims out there, if I or someone else does not speak up now. There are those who will be damned to a “sorry life,” if we do not stop the making of methamphetamine in this state now. This includes the ones who will become hooked on meth, the potentially hundreds, maybe thousands of small children, offspring of people like you and me, senior citizens and others caught up in the midst of this illicit trade.
No, I do not like confrontation, to be bullied or beat up on physically or verbally. But, I have had to fight back before against the bullies. In taking their beating I learned how to fight back and win. That is what I am doing now, fighting back. My cause is a righteous one.
Remember you can read these columns on www.bradleysheriff.com. Thanks for reading.