Chuck Carroll worked as a school resource officer at Science Hill High School for 12 years. (Tony Casey/Johnson City Press)
After 30 years in law enforcement, former Johnson City Police Department officer Chuck Carroll said it was tough when he retired in 2010.
Having lived an extremely fulfilling life as a disc jockey, semi-professional wrestler and officer, all of that stopped one day and gave him some grief and a bout with depression.
“It was tough. One day I was something then the next I was a civilian,” Carroll said.
Since his post-retirement jitters though, Carroll has found his purpose again by staying involved in law enforcement to some degree, working part-time hours, helping out at the station with walk-in reports and with police records. He also teaches introductory and advanced classes to school resource officers in the area, something he’s very passionate about because of his background.
His work as a school resource officer at Science Hill, where he went to school and played basketball, is some of the best work he said he’s ever done.
“That 12 years, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Carroll said.
There are four students he can remember specificall for whom he went the extra mile in helping, trying to steer them onto the right path.
“Those were the four kids on the fence who could have gone the other way,” Carroll said about some kids getting into serious trouble.
One of the four, he said, sadly, did end up going to jail, but the other three did quite well with themselves, with one going to college and two going into the armed forces. He recalls being at the mall and being approached by a sharp-looking Marine in his uniform.
“You made it,” Carroll told the formerly troubled student.
Though the student didn’t always appreciate Carroll’s insistence on not letting him continue on his troubled ways, Carroll said the kid hugged him and then shared a conversation and a cup of coffee.
Of all the things Carroll’s done, and he’s done quite a few things, this is the most fulfilling for him. It all started when he was working community relations as an officer in some of the Johnson City area schools and was approached by the JCPD’s chief to become Science Hill’s SRO officer. Carroll said he agreed, having no idea what he’d just agreed to because it wasn’t something Johnson City had at the time. From there, Carroll developed the system, which includes to having a total of about 10 officers in schools now. It’s something he knows parents appreciate.
“Parents love to see the officers at the school, their cars at the schools,” Carroll said.
Before his work as an SRO, Carroll received plenty of law enforcement experience, working patrol for his first 10 years around the city. Having seen a little bit of everything, Carroll said he approached life and his work the same way, “to treat everyone the way I want to be treated.”
This approach to his work led to recognition from Johnson City at a City Commission meeting in November 2010, just months after Carroll retired, at which it was said that he had “made a difference in our community by protecting our citizens and touching the lives of various youths through his leadership as a School Resource Officer.”
At a Carver Recreation Center event this past January, Carroll was honored by current JCPD Chief Mark Sirois for his work as a pioneer SRO in the area. Sirois spoke about going to SRO training with Carroll in Knoxville on April 20, 1999, the day of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Tragedies like those at Columbine and others around the country, Carroll said, are things that have unfortunately become too frequent.
Though having SROs in schools won’t prevent all future events like Columbine from happening, Carroll said, it decreases the likelihood of them occurring.
“If you can get the kids going in the right direction, you’re doing something right,” he said.
Carroll not only wrestled with the decision to retire, he also found his way into the ring against the likes of World Wrestling Entertainment legend Macho Man Randy Savage, the Road Warriors and Bob Orton Jr., among many others, when wrestling was more popular at the Legion Street Gym as well as at Freedom Hall Civic Center. It was then that Carroll went by his performance names Sweet Brown Sugar and Mr. U.S.A. when he was behind a mask and Chuck Carroll when he was without the mask.
It started when one of his fellow officers asked him to join and check it out.
“They talked me into it one day,” Carroll said.
He remembers his nerves during his first match, but said it was a lot of fun and went on to compete for about nine years and isn’t ashamed to tell anyone about it.
Though it might not have been as fulfilling as turning around troubled teens’ lives as an SRO, Carroll said he cherished his time as a local disc jockey before going into law enforcement. He remembers telling his mother about the age of 8 that he wanted to be on the radio he was listening to, and that eventually brought him to local AM and public radio stations, playing Billboard’s top hits. Music was a big part of his life then and it still is today, with him getting excited over the soul oldies he used to play and modern country music.
When the station where he worked was being sold, he found out the new company would be bringing in their own men. He sought a different job. With the gift of gab on his side, he thought he’d put it to use as a dispatcher at the JCPD, which ultimately got his foot in the door, leading to his long career in law enforcement.
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