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Lebanon Police Chief talks family, first year on the job

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With a last name like "Justice," what other career path could Lebanon's Police Chief have taken?

He joked, "I guess I could have been a Judge." However, Mike Justice knows that public service is what he was born to do.

Justice was named Lebanon Police Chief by former Mayor Philip Craighead on March 17, 2016. He was no stranger to law enforcement prior to this appointment.

It dates back to when Justice was a young man. Growing up, he thought law enforcement was an interesting, admirable career.

"My granddad taught me, 'If you find a job you love, then you'll never work a day in your life,'" he explained.

Justice moved to Lebanon in January 1991 for a patrolman job with the Lebanon Police Department.

Born and raised in Nashville, he knew little about the city before moving here but it quickly became his adopted hometown.

"This is absolutely my home now," he said.

In his first year as Chief, Justice connected the community with the police department in a number of ways.

Officers reached out to church, civic and neighborhood organizations to "get a better grasp" on the needs of the city and its residents.

"Getting closer to the community is the biggest thing that I am proud of. We've got a lot of great people at the department, which makes my job easier. We are just trying to stay a local police department and work for the public," he said.

As part of the outreach, Officer PJ Hardy was named Public Information Officer for LPD. Having a PIO allows the department to share news with media and on social media outlets, as well as receive tips from citizens.

"The biggest thing about Mike is that he came in and made the department stable again. He's promoted unity," said Cpl. Jeremy Pruitte. "Pretty much the whole department is satisfied with Mike."

Justice is also proud of his department for bringing closure to one of the city's most tragic cases.

In February, it was announced that three additional suspects were arrested in the 2015 shooting murder of 13-year-old C'Asia Patton.

"This case has been on everyone's minds. It touched our department when it happened. Bringing the end of that case and some resolution for the family has been huge for us," he said.

He reported that 2016 was the first in several years that there was not a homicide in the city.

However, they still have some obstacles ahead on the crime scene. Justice said the biggest drug-related issue facing the city is heroin use - so much that they have applied for a grant to fund emergency kits.

"We have had several overdoses and are trying to respond to that by buying naloxone kits for patrol cars," Justice said. The kits include a nasal spray which reverses the effects of heroin.

Business aside, 2016 was a great year personally for Justice. He got married.

Justice's wife, Katie, is a firefighter EMT with Wilson Emergency Management Agency. He wears a black wedding band with a thin blue line and she wears a similar style with a red line - respective of their careers.

"My family is big in this. I couldn't do this without my wife and kids supporting me," he said.

On weekends when his wife is working and kids are gone, Justice can be found at the Police Department.

"I'll come in and answer the patrol calls," he said. "My philosophy is to keep it fresh. It lets me see what they have to work with and what they need, and I think it instills in them that I'm not going to ask them to do anything that I won't do."

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