At the Hillsboro Police Department the American flag will fly at half-mast Wednesday in recognition of Peace Officer Memorial Day, a day set aside to recognize federal, state and local officers killed or disabled in the line of duty, and is observed in conjunction with Police Week.
To some it may look like a thankless and dangerous job, but for Hillsboro police officer Tim Bell it was a rewarding career choice he made as a teenager.
The 1984 graduate of Hillsboro High School began his career at the age of 21 at the Highland County Sherriff’s Office before joining the HPD a year later.
The beat he walks now is the hallways of the Hillsboro City Schools since becoming a resource officer for the district.
“It’s the same thing I do on the road, except now I’m at the school,” Bell said. “We deal with all the schools, plus I go to the FRS alternative school and you’ll see me at the Christian school and the Catholic school.”
According to the organization Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), Peace Officer Memorial Day is held annually in the United States on May 15, having come about in 1961 with a request for the president to designate that day to honor law enforcement officers.
A year later, President John Kennedy honored the congressional request and signed the bill into law.
Each year, according to COPS, nearly 160 officers are killed in the line of duty, and according to CNN, as of Monday, 18 law enforcement officers have lost their lives this year in incidents that occurred in 14 states and Puerto Rico.
Hillsboro officer Shawn Kelley said that in training, instructors told him the most dangerous part of being a police officer was a routine traffic stop.
“The only thing is, in our job, there’s no such thing as anything being routine,” he said.
For Kelly, an interest in law enforcement began while in college studying mechanical engineering while serving in the Ohio National Guard.
“I was always interested in law enforcement,” he said, “and one of my sergeants introduced me to the career opportunities and showed me what steps I had to take.”
For both officers, the career choice they committed to years ago is both rewarding and fulfilling. That’s something they try to pass along to others intending to make a career of law enforcement, such as 22-year-old Shania Thompson of Leesburg, who will graduate from the police academy at Greene County Career Center in Xenia in June.
“It’s an intense program,” she said. “We did a lot of subject control, physical conditioning, and routine traffic stops, which is probably the most dangerous situation any officer can be in since it can go sideways at any time.”
Other training during the six-month program included procedures and usage of tasers and OC (pepper) spray, in addition to classroom subjects dealing with various protocols of law enforcement.
Thompson said that with her training, she felt confident that she could put on the uniform of a police officer and do the job well, and hoped to use that training in a local jurisdiction after graduation.
“I plan to be a cop somewhere here in Highland or Brown County,” she said. “After I get more practical experience on the local level, I eventually want to be a homicide detective in a larger city, maybe in another state.”
Her mother, Faith Thompson, said her daughter desired a career in law enforcement to help people in trouble and those in need, embodying what is emblazoned on many police cruisers across the nation — to protect and serve.
“What makes this job worthwhile for me is not only helping somebody,” Kelly said, “but I’ve found out firsthand that people are appreciative of what we do, even though it doesn’t feel like it if you watch the national news.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.