New Ky. deputies say they were drawn to law enforcement

"I never had a second thought. I had a feeling this was what I was supposed to do."

By James Mayse

OWENSBORO, Ky. — The Daviess County Sheriff's Department has gone through much of the past year and a half with a shortage of deputies. But that situation is gradually beginning to improve.

The department, which normally has 37 deputies, has been short a number of people due to retirements and deputies leaving to take jobs in the private sector. But the department hired two officers from other agencies this year, and will have five new deputies graduate the state police academy between last month and December.

"That still leaves us three short" Major Barry Smith said. "Those five will put us in decent shape, to where we were in 2020."

The past several years have been hard for law enforcement, as changes to pensions, criticism of law enforcement based on specific incidents in other cities and competition with the private sector has made hiring challenging. Private businesses are also in the market for experienced officers who have gained leadership and decision-making skills.

But the job is still attracting good candidates, Smith said.

"Most of them have a servant's heart, want to give back and want to be in this profession to provide public protection," Smith said. "For those of us that want to do it and have done it for years, we can take the highs and lows."

Kolbe Mattingly graduated from the police academy on Aug. 19. Before applying to the sheriff's department, Mattingly graduated with a criminal justice degree from Murray State.

Mattingly said it was his plan to become a law enforcement officer, and that he was following the example of his mother.

"I always wanted to help the community and help people," Mattingly said. "My mom's a nurse, she has been a nurse for 25 years. I don't want to do that, but I wanted to do something to help.

"I felt this was my calling."

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Cameron Edwards had a lifelong admiration for law enforcement officers but originally planned to do something else with his life.

"Somewhere in high school, I wanted to be a broadcaster and a journalist," Edwards said. But while working at Holiday World after a year of college, Edwards became friends with an officer from the Santa Claus Police Department.

"All of that interest I had in law enforcement, it all came back to me," Edwards said. "When I went back to Western ... I didn't see myself being fulfilled by the stories we were working on."

Edwards said concerns about negative attitudes about law enforcement didn't cause him any concern when he applied to the sheriff's office.

"I never had a second thought," Edwards said. "I had a feeling this was what I was supposed to do, that I was supposed to help the community, and help my fellow officers."

Mattingly said the national conversation about policing spurred his interest in being in law enforcement.

"Of course I knew it was going on," Mattingly said. "For me, it drives me more to do the job, to get home and show the community we are here to help.

"I wish I was working today," Mattingly said during an interview on a day off. "I enjoy it. It's fun, it's something new every day. You never know what's going to come over the radio."

Edwards said while learning about human trafficking in college, he became passionate about working to help stop trafficking as a law enforcement officer.

"What people don't realize is (human trafficking) happens all over the place," Edwards said.

Also, Edwards said he would like to be an advocate for the issue of officers getting mental health counseling. According to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that focuses on law enforcement mental health issues, 93 law enforcement officers have died of suicide nationwide this year.

"Mental health is such a big issue because officers are exposed to (incidents) human beings shouldn't be exposed to," Edwards said. Officers have a difficult time addressing their own needs counseling or stress management, he said.

"When law enforcement has an issue, they view it as, 'I'm supposed to be helping people with their issues, my issue needs to be swept under the rug,' " Edwards said.

He said a hope for the future is to work with the Fraternal Order of Police as an advocate for law enforcement getting counseling and assistance.

Edwards said the sheriff's department has been very welcoming.

"It's not an atmosphere where the new guy has to learn his place," Edwards said. "It's an atmosphere where everyone is willing to help you."

NEXT: Developing an evidence-based police recruitment video

(c)2021 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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