How a Pot Hole Saved an Officer’s Life
BY TIM LENTZ
As the police chief of a small town, I have direct influence over, and participate extensively in the hiring of a new recruit. I have learned throughout my years of hiring officers to not give so much attention to the candidate’s resume, but spend some time getting to know them. I have been burned many times by the officer that looks great on paper, but at the end of the day they are not. Give me someone with a good attitude, I will train them for the skills they need.
I have always given hiring preference to those that have served in our Military. For those that will stand on a wall somewhere in a foreign country to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, I am proud to give them an opportunity to serve our community as a police officer.
A little over a year ago, this sharp looking young man walked into my office seeking employment. One of those guys you meet and you immediately liked. He had previous military experience serving a couple of tours in Afghanistan. He shared with me that on one of his tours, the hummer he was in struck an IED. He survived the explosion without any serious injuries. During the hiring process, he went through all of the necessary physiological and physical back ground checks with flying colors. In fact his psychological liability screening stated “The candidate is considered suitable for armed, independent law enforcement work.” I hired (for the purpose of this story will call him Tommy) Tommy and he proceeded through his Police Officers Standards Training, where he excelled, then returned to our department to begin his Field Training program. 16 weeks later, he completed all of his training and achieved solo status.
Tommy started patrolling the streets of my small town and as far as anyone could tell, Tommy was excelling as a patrol officer, receiving the respect of his supervisors and myself alike. Then the events in Dallas occurred, followed by more tragedy in Baton Rouge. These events weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of police officers across the country. But, for Tommy, they weighed extra heavy. As he was patrolling the city, he hit a pot hole with his police car. This small innocent event triggered Tommy’s post traumatic syndrome. He realized now that he wanted to hurt someone. He realized that he needed to get out of his police car, and thank God, Tommy did.
Surprisingly, he was able to see a VA psychologist rather quickly, who recommended that he not return to law enforcement work. All of these events with Tommy were taking place while I was in St. Louis at the National Conference. My first appointment when I got back to work on Wednesday was with Tommy. When I saw Tommy, I could immediately recognize that something wasn’t right. He cried, he looked lost, and was depressed and realized that he still needed help.
I remember while at the National Conference, speaking with my friend Joe Collins who is the Co-Chair of the FBINAA Safety and Wellness Committee. He mentioned to me that the committee had a couple of scholarships available to a facility in New Mexico called the Life Healing Center that specializes in treating PTSD. I contacted Joe about the possibility of securing one of those scholarships for Tommy, and within minutes the ball got rolling. Tommy was awarded a 21 day scholarship worth $22,470.00, and on Saturday less than 48 hours after this process started, Tommy was on a plane headed to New Mexico.
Tommy completed the three week program and returned home. I had the opportunity to visit with him, and what an amazing turn around. Tommy had a smile on his face, was overwhelming thankful for all of the help he got and looked forward to his future and his upcoming wedding.
You are probably thinking this is where I tell you Tommy returns to work next week, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Through his treatment he has realized that there could be what they call triggers, that could set off his PTSD. Something as simple as putting on his bullet proof vest, exposure to a difficult call could all be triggers. Tommy is a mature and responsible young man. He recognizes that his days as a police officer are over, but that doesn’t mean his live is though. He now has the skills to continue to be a productive member of our society. One that now has a smile on his face.
I couldn’t be more proud of Tommy, first for recognizing something wasn’t right, secondly for seeking help and being receptive for treatment, and thirdly for everything he had done for our Country and for my little town. You are still, and always will be a hero.
I would also like to thank the staff at Life Healing Center. We sent you a broken man with pieces scattered all over the place. You put him back together and more importantly put a smile on his face.
And finally to my FBINAA family. Because of our relationships, because of a brief conversation I had with Joe Collins, a life has been saved. I couldn’t be more proud to be a FBINAA Graduate.
Funny what a pot hole can do. Thought it only broke your car, but apparently it can break more. But much like your car, you can get fixed. If you need help, just ask.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Lentz started his law enforcement career in 1983 as a deputy patrolling the streets of St. Tammany Parish. During his career he worked in a variety of different divisions to include Detectives, Warrants and Fugitives, Fleet Maintenance. In the early 90’s he began to take on leadership roles beginning with the Commander of the Narcotics Division, then Director of the Crime Lab, Chief of Detectives and eventually Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Division. In 2005, Tim attended the 220th Session of the FBINA.
In 2011 Sheriff Jack Strain promoted Tim to Chief Deputy, the 2nd in command, overseeing the day to day operations of a 750 man department with a 65 million dollar budget. He retained that position until his retirement after 30 years of service in 2013. During his employment, Tim went to night school and obtained an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Loyola University in New Orleans. He continued his education at night and received a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from Loyola University in New Orleans. After graduating, the University invited him to become and adjuct professor of Criminal Justice which he held for 5 years.
After his retirement in 2013, a vacancy in his home town police department became available. After an exhaustive search, and competition from 15 other candidates, in October of 2013 Mayor Mike Cooper appointed Tim Lentz as the Chief of Police for the City of Covington. A position he still holds today.
BACK TO MAGAZINE...