Law enforcement by its very nature is the most dangerous world that anyone could enter. That fact has never been more apparent than in America circa 2017. With an ever growing crime rate and a criminally insufficient pay scale, it is a difficult world. However, the people that we have here in our community that put a badge and a gun on every single day are the greatest people you could ever hope to meet. That is why it is so refreshing when a story comes along about the youth in our culture that still want to be involved with law enforcement and going out of their way to serve and protect others.
Jacob Hendrix is a junior at Callaway High School. Like many young people today he is already turning his eyes towards his future and trying to decide what he wants to commit his life to. Jacob’s heart is calling him towards the world of law enforcement and his heart is set on a job in the field and will let nothing stop him from achieving his dreams. That is why, out of his own volition, he made the call to Sheriff James Woodruff here in Troup County and asked if he could shadow him for the day. The Sheriff’s obvious answer was yes and the pair carved out some time from their busy schedule to talk with Troup County News about their experience.
Jacob has had an interest with going into the field of law enforcement for a while now. “My uncle was a state trooper. He [was] a police officer, a sheriff’s deputy, and a state trooper in the GBI. After he passed away I really got interested in it. Then [I saw the] DNR field and I wanted to go into nature and stuff like that but I want to work my way through and see all levels of it. So then I got with my counselor at school and she’s helping me work through it. She has college class [for me] next year at West Georgia Tech so that I can start [taking criminal justice classes] my senior year of high school.”
There was a lot to the job with several facets that Jacob had just begun to touch on. “From the Sheriff’s point of view, it’s very busy. There are a lot of calls and things like that. You have to pace yourself so that you don’t get overloaded and go scatterbrained. You have to stay focused. It’s a challenging job.”
Jacob also spoke about his decision to call Sheriff Woodruff and ask him if it would be alright to shadow him for the day. “I was looking at the DNR and I figured if I need to start somewhere that I need to start with the Sheriff’s department so I figured I would reach out.” Speaking on the Sheriff, Jacob said that he was “he’s a good Christian man, has Christian character and is a good mentor.” The Sheriff spoke of how he and Jacob’s family go way back and spoke to all of the wonderful things that his family has done for the Sheriff and his family over the years.
The Sheriff also had a lot to share on this wonderful mentoring opportunity. “We have done stories before about low pay for deputies and the need for us to be able to attract really good young men and women and more than that, be able to keep them here and that we can pay them a competitive salary. For somebody like Jacob to step forward and say [that] regardless of everything I’ve read and everything that’s going on negatively with law enforcement, he still wants to get in there. That’s refreshing to me because where would we be today if everybody said I don’t want to do your job. If nobody stepped forward, where would we be in 20 years? Where would law enforcement be? We wouldn’t have any law enforcement officers. So there is always a ray of hope that people like him and other young men and women that are saying you know regardless of everything negative they hear about us [law enforcement], I still want to give it a shot.”
Sheriff Woodruff also spoke on some of the other programs that his department offers that allow the youth to have some personal time with law enforcement officers and educate them on the field and to show them that the law is there to help them. “When I ran four years ago, five years ago now, I ran on one of the principles of reaching out to our young people and trying to get our young people to go down the right road before they go down the wrong road because it’s easier to keep them on the right road than it is to try and rehabilitate them once they go down the wrong road. We have a lot of men and a lot of women in jail back there right now that are good young men and women and they made a bad choice and because they made a bad choice, that has altered their future.
So I really want to try to reach out to young people and we do that with the Junior Deputy program, taught in every third grade public school in this County. [There is also the] Sheriff for a Day program, with young men and young ladies from the third grade. Everywhere where Junior Deputy is taught, we go back to the teacher’s and say pick one kid to represent your school for a whole day and they can be the Sheriff. So we go around and pick them up and they come ride around with me all day long and we go to the courthouse, they get a t-shirt that says I’m sheriff for a day, and these are third graders because we want their action with us to be positive. With our SRO’s (School Resources Officers), I want them to be there to be a mentor to young men and women. We also have the Sheriff’s Academy for Youth in the summer time where we have a week where nine and ten year olds come and another week where eleven and twelve year olds come.”
With the Sheriff’s Academy program, kids are given a half a day of learning the various parts of the deputy’s job and the other have of the day is a fun activity so that they see the positive side of law enforcement.
Both Jacob and the Sheriff had some final thoughts on the whole experience. The Sheriff stated that “I just appreciate young people like him that say I still want to give this a shot.” Jacob was grateful for the opportunities that he has been given. “The Lord blessed me with opportunities. He’s put resources and people in my life to keep me on the right path.”
Jeremy Andrews Staff Writer