“I’m blessed to have had a brother who took me under his wings and taught me everything I know,” retiring Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett said. The chief was honored with a retirement reception at the Joint Law Enforcement Center on Saturday.
Shiflett is retiring in mid-December after more than 43 years on the force, most of the last 14 years as chief.
The chief started on June 14, 1974.
“I found a home and never wanted to leave,” Shiflett said. He worked in the uniform division for about two years and then transferred to a newly formed drug unit. Then it was back and forth between investigations and crimes against children, but nearly half of his career was spent in investigations related to narcotics.
Maj. Tom Ewing said Shiflett always tried to do what was best for his staff. “He’s always tried to keep this department as a family,” Ewing said.
One of Shiflett’s most vivid memories is a drug case that involved wire taps that were dialed in on a suspect in Rome who was dealing with Colombian cocaine cartel smugglers.
“They were setting up shipments out of Colombia by boat that came into Mexico and then across the border,” Shiflett said. “We made eight or 10 arrests on that one and seized $375,000, and close to a million dollars worth of property.”
The drug money that was seized in that case provided the funds to start the original 911 program in Rome and Floyd County.
Several other cases stood out to Shiflett over the years, including the Isaac Dawkins murder case. Dawkins, 20, was shot and killed while driving on U.S. 27 on Jan. 11, 2000, near Georgia Highlands College. The chief said he became very close with the victim’s family over the course of that investigation, which ultimately resulted in an arrest and life sentence for the convicted killer.
Another case that sticks out in his mind all these years later involves the murder of two children. A child was molested by his stepfather after the biological father had already been sent to jail for molesting the children.
“I really got close to that family, too close for my own good,” Shiflett said. After the children’s father got out of prison, their mother called to say he had threatened to kill the children.
“By the time we got the lookout out we found the kids up in Chattooga County where he had drowned the kids, then dressed them and put them back in bed. That’s something I’ll never forget,” Shiflett said.
As his career evolved, Shiflett’s emotions ultimately hardened.
“There is so much hurt and pain you have to harden up a little bit,” Shiflett said. His compassion was not lost on his fellow officers. Maj. Jeff Jones told a large crowd at a retirement reception Saturday that every case is different, but they all had one thing in common as it relates to Shiflett.
“That was his desire and caring attitude for the victims,” Jones said.
In a sense, that has played a lot into his decision to retire. “This whole world has changed so much. The meanness that we face now, the meanness that people do to other people, it’s just time for me to go. I’m glad I’m getting out right now.”
The chief said he always tried to involve himself in major cases.
“It’s so challenging, it’s so much fun,” Shiflett said. It was perhaps appropriate that the current RICO case involving thefts from Floyd County Schools would put the wraps on his career.
“It’s one of the most in-depth investigations I’ve seen in 43 years,” said Shiflett. “Maj. Jeff Jones had the knack to see the bigger picture and followed it through. It’s amazing all the work he did, and then to recover about $4.3 million from the investigation, he just did outstanding work.”
“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve never minded going to work one day in my life,” the chief said.
A lot of golf and time with his four grandchildren are the most immediate objectives for Shiflett’s future. His whole family was present for the reception at the joint law enforcement center Saturday.
Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said he has already started the process of selecting a successor and has already conducted a number of interviews. McCord said he hopes to be in a position to make a recommendation to the County Commission before the end of the year.