The Cleveland Police Department recently held a special ceremony to remember one of its own: Justin Maples. He died four years ago in a traffic accident as he was attempting to answer a …
The Cleveland Police Department recently held a special ceremony to remember one of its own: Justin Maples. He died four years ago in a traffic accident as he was attempting to answer a call.
According to Sgt. Evie West, public information officer with the CPD’s community service unit, that is “something officers must be aware of every day. And, yet, they want to do that job and protect the citizens in Cleveland.”
“I think it is good that we remember those officers who are working to serve and protect the city,” West said. “Police officers run toward danger when others run away from it, and in most people’s eyes, that makes them heroes.”
She said all areas of the department serve an important purpose, but the officers on the street are the ones who are mostly seen by the public.
“The guys on the street — they are the backbone of our department,” West said. “They work at midnight. They work when it is so hot and they are in their (protective) vests and on that hot asphalt. And they are very dedicated because at times, you are missing your wife’s birthday or your child’s birthday, because you can’t take off, and you want to do your job.
“They are the ones who keep the wheels rolling. They are those who are sweating and in dangerous situations. It is a hard job, and every time you put on your uniform, there is no guarantee that you are coming home,” she added.
The CPD’s patrol division are out and about every day, all day, and it is their job to do what they can to make Cleveland as safe as possible.
She said many in the city know this, and at certain times will send food down for them. Children often draw pictures of the officers to show their respect and support.
“I think it is very important for our guys to know how the community feels about them,” West said.
The children learn more about the police through the School Resource Officer program, which is in each city school.
“Their main purpose is to safeguard the children and be the security of the school,” she said. “But, there is also so much community in that a lot of children are in bad environments and see police officers in a bad light because of circumstances. This helps them realize the officers are there to help them.
“These officers are trained in police tactics. They know the children and who comes into the school. They know who is not supposed to be there,” West said.
When their rounds are done, many times the SROs will go into sit and have lunch with the kids. Some SROs who know family situations will provide food for families, all out of their own pockets.
The SROs work within the schools, get to know the children and show them police can be their friends and are there to protect them when necessary. The detectives at the department work with the adults and try to solve crimes in the city through their investigative skills.
“Those guys are on 24/7, so they can get a call any time of the day,” West said. “They work tirelessly. The thing about the investigators is they may be working 40 cases, and once they finish one, they have 39 others waiting for them.”
The detectives are a special type of officer, she said, because “they have skills of talking to people, from victims and suspects, and getting to the truth in efforts to find the guilty party and have them go through the legal process.”
West said the Cleveland Police works well with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Drug Task Force, and other law enforcement agencies.
She said there is a bond within the CPD and with all who serve in that profession.
“This job is so different than many others because you form this bond with your co-workers,” West said. “You laugh together. You weep together. You mourn together. You have to depend on this other person — it’s like you have this relationship — ike they are family.”
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