Officer Mitchell Moore is retiring from the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department this year. He shared with us some of his thoughts and experiences on over three decades of law enforcement service.
How long have you worked in law enforcement? I was first hired into law enforcement by the Georgia Department of Transportation in late 1986. I’ve had a few breaks in service since then, but for the most part I’ve been in law enforcement for 32 years.
How long with the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department? I was hired in August 2002, so almost 16 years.
What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement? Tough question. I grew up watching many law enforcement legends who made the job look easy, exciting and fun. Hearing their “war stories” put stars in my eyes and dreams in my head. The thought of catching the bad guy, driving like my hair was on fire and coming to the rescue in the nick of time was what I thought it was all about. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After getting their first check, “hot-seating” the oldest car in the fleet and pulling their fifth double in a week, a new officer rapidly realizes the job is more of a calling and is anything but glamorous or fun. It is the only job on the planet where you can meet the nicest folks on the worst day of their life. You can hold an elderly person’s hand as they take their last breath and watch a baby come into the world and take its first, all in one day.
It’s also the only job on the planet where you’re sure to encounter the worst disasters known to mankind and the most evil people who have ever lived.
The pay sucks, the hours suck, and if you’re not half frozen, you’re frying. You have to be a financial guru because most police families skirt the line close to poverty and food stamps
The endless hours patrolling back alleys and closed businesses are tedious at best. You make circles until your boredom is interrupted by a horrific cry for help from another officer or agency. The following few minutes would bring the strongest men to their knees, but you don’t have time to be scared – you have folks counting on you and there’s a job to do.
Oh, and make sure you cancel those event plans, because you can bet that you will be on shift, directing traffic or answering a subpoena anytime a birthday, graduation, anniversary or holiday comes around.
The job in a nutshell is to wear every hat, be everything to everyone and to stand in the gap between chaos and the people. You’re required to roll in the goo without getting any of it on you. You must possess compassion, empathy, patience and intelligence. You need to have perfect clarity, exacting legal interpretation and instantaneous decision-making skills. There’s no margin for error. Folks with far less training and no stress at all will calmly review your every action, your every word, and do so from the comfort of an easy chair. They will have years to debate your actions and second-guess your decisions and never care to realize that you made your choice in less than three seconds and while under fire.
Those few who are lucky enough to survive mentally and physically until retirement will most certainly possess both visible and invisible scars. Family members will try to relate, but in truth, only fellow officers can truly understand. The faces of those who couldn’t be saved, those particularly ghastly crime scenes and the cries of loved ones looking to you for answers will fill your dreams. “What took you so long to get here?” says one. “Why did you stop me? Don’t you have some real crime to fight?” says another. But you must remain steadfast, proper, polished and polite.
While these are the realities of the job, they aren’t the times professional officers focus on. It’s the necessary arrest of a really bad guy who just beat up his wife in front of their kids. It’s the fellow who passed out at a local restaurant and got a needed zap from an AED, or the Heimlich, and lived. It’s the lost toddler found wandering around on a busy street that you safely returned to a frantic and tearful mom. It’s the teenagers that you gave “the sermon” to instead of the ticket who then went on to be outstanding parents and good citizens. Those are the wins, those are the things officers remember and those are the things that I wanted to be a part of!
Please share your law enforcement history. Georgia Department of Transportation, Office of Special Investigations; Whitfield County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy, SWAT team member, Lieutenant – Traffic Unit; TVA-Watts Bar Sequoya Nuclear Facilities (highest scores in Federal Academy in Marksmanship, Academics and General Subjects); University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Campus Law and police cyclist; Fort Oglethorpe Police Department, Patrolman, Detective, Top Gun, Officer of the Year, Purple Heart, Collision Reconstructionist.
Please share a highlight from your career. Going home knowing I had done a good job for those I served and seeing the relief in the eyes of my wife as I pulled into the driveway.
What is the most frightening experience you’ve had as an officer? There were many times that I was scared but none that stick out in my mind as the “most frightening.” This is not because I’m inordinately brave but rather because most of the time what could be considered frightening to others happened so suddenly and with such ferocity that I didn’t have time to be frightened. We did what we needed to do at the time and then cried, puked or fell apart later.
What advice would you give someone thinking about going into law enforcement? Do your research. Know what it is you’re signing up for. This job is not for the faint of heart. You cannot get into it lightly or with ideas of grandeur. Badges don’t make you special, they make you a target. You’re held to a higher standard and under constant scrutiny – that isn’t for everyone. If you can’t live your life like you’re constantly being filmed, stay home.
What is something many people might not know about you? I once served as a member of the stock car pit crew at the Huntsville Motor Speedway.