Carter County Deputy Scott Whitmire got a surprise during his graduation ceremony from the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy earlier this year. He was awarded the Casey-Fowler-Williams Leadership Award for providing the most outstanding leadership during the 10-week training program at the academy.
“I was very surprised.” Whitmire said. “I thought Deputy Michael Malone would get the award. He is also with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and he was our class leader. I was the class chaplain. The Carter County Sheriff’s Department really dominated that class,” he said.
“I was very honored to receive the award,” Whitmire said.
For Whitmire, the law enforcement academy was a refresher course and an introduction to the terminology used in Tennessee criminal law. He has served in law enforcement, both full-time and as a reserve officer for many years, although that service was in South Carolina.
“I was 13 when I decided I wanted to go into law enforcement,” Whitmire said. It was not until 1992, when he was 27, that he became involved in law enforcement as a reserve with the Malden, S.C., Police Department. Six months later he was hired as a full-time officer. Whitmire then went to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department, where he served for three years.
Following that stint in law enforcement, Whitmire changed careers and went into the medical field. Even then, he maintained his interest in law enforcement. He once again became a reservist in 2001 and served as a regional chaplain for several law enforcement agencies. In this role, he said he debriefed officers and counseled families who had been involved in traumatic incidents.
It was as a chaplain that Whitmire would perform some of his most difficult duties. He officiated at the funerals of six officers who were killed in the line of duty. Those men included Trooper David Bailey and Fountain Inn Police Officer Rick Pope, who died of injuries in crashes. Greenville City Officer Russ Sorrow, Greenville County Deputy Marcus Whitfield, Trooper Eric Nicholson and Deputy Andrew Mazur of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department were shot and killed.
Nicholson’s death was especially felt by Whitmire because the trooper’s partner had been David Bailey. When Bailey was killed, Whitmire had debriefed Nicholson. Then, six months later, Nicholson was killed.
Whitmire said a chaplain’s role is important in law enforcement because they help the officers open up and talk about feelings they keep bottled up. “I tell them it is like a bottle of Coca-Cola that has been shaken up. I ask them what would happen if you opened the bottle. They say it will spew all over the place. I tell them that is what will happen to you if you let things build up inside.”
Not all of Whitmire’s work in law enforcement centered around death. He has helped save lives. He received a medal of valor for saving two men in a flood of the Saluda River in 1995.
He once helped prevent an armed standoff by talking to a man he had never met in Jacksonville, Fla., while he was in South Carolina. Whitfield said the man’s employer contacted him and asked for help in talking the employee into giving himself up. Whitfield was able to convince the man to surrender to police who were outside the motel room.
Whitmire came to the Tri-Cities when he was transferred in his medical job as an executive director with a hospice company. The job did not last, but Whitmire said he was able to re-establish his love for law enforcement by getting hired by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department.
Whitmire began by working in the county jail. He had never worked in a jail before and said he quickly discovered “they were not a lot different from people on the outside.” He soon began assisting North Ridge Community Church in Johnson City in helping the inmates.
Whitmire’s church is still NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C. He is able to continue worshiping with the church through modern communications technology.
While he still has a strong connection with South Carolina, Whitmire has quickly come to love the Tri-Cities region, especially the mountains. His adjustment was aided by his wife, Lori, who grew up in Boone, N.C., and was anxious to get back to the mountains. She holds a master’s in nursing and is a certified diabetes educator. “I married high above my level,” Whitmire said.
Next school year, Whitmire will be assigned as one of the school resource officers for the Carter County School System. He is looking forward to the job and the chance to work with young people and demonstrate the leadership that Tennessee’s top law enforcement academy has recognized.comments powered by Disqus