Amidst news overnight of yet another police officer being shot, the guests of July’s Williamson Inc’s public affairs roundtable seemed duly appropriate. The monthly event, organized by Williamson Inc, and presented by Vanderbilt’s Office of Community Neighborhood and Government Relations, gives elected officials a chance a to talk more in-depth about issues currently facing the county.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long were this month’s guest speakers. They talked about something many leaders across the country have been talking about- the ongoing violence to and by law enforcement officers, and what measures are being taken to ensure safety for Williamson’s deputies and the community they serve.
“In spite of all the chaos going on all over the United States with the law enforcement community, and again earlier this morning out on the West Coast we lost another law enforcement officer, the Sheriff here in Williamson County and in working with our polices chiefs out in the city jurisdictional areas continues to train, and prepare. “Of course, there is no training for some issues that come up, and think this is one of those things we always need to remember to keep in our prayers. We are a very fortunate community, but I think anything can happen at any given time.”
Long, Williamson County’s Sheriff since 2008, gave his take on the shifting paradigm in policing,
“A lot of it comes down to training, the training you give your deputies, and just being aware, you know, and watching your surroundings, I imagine every law enforcement agency has probably changed their practices. You don’t go on a call just by yourself anymore, you change your tactics up and you try to adjust according to that.
“The scary part about it I think is it can happen anytime, anywhere. Those are things you have to think about now that you didn’t have to before, and the safety of our officers is our priority and I worry about them and pray for them every day.”
Long, who recently spoke to the same purpose at a community meeting with Franklin Police Chief Deborah Faulkner and others at First Missionary Baptist Church on Natchez Street in Franklin, a traditionally ethnically African American neighborhood, expressed what he believes leads to both safe policing and police safety.
“It is all about communication, and that is what we wanted to accomplish that night at First Baptist, is keep the lines open. We want to prevent anything demonstration-wise or anything like that from happening in our community, and all we can do is communicate. And I thought what we did that night was good, and we had not just police officials there but leaders from the community. ”
“We were there to listen to both sides. Listen to what police face, and what are facing in this uncertain time right now, and why we might do something different than what they are accustomed to doing, and I think it gave them great appreciation, and of course naturally Chief Faulkner and I talked about what we learned from the black community, and I think that is it, there, communication.”
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department puts deputies through an always-updating training regimen.
“We have implemented anti-bias training and diversity training, because sometimes we might not even know we have a bias,” he said. “We as people might have an unconscious bias. So we train methods for overcoming that. We also train our deputies to use the minimum- minimum- level of force, and that lethal force is only to be used in circumstances when it is absolutely necessary to protect someone from the risk of death. Also, we have implemented stress management and this is something really important coming up on the horizon everywhere, de-escalation techniques.”
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