As our jolted nation grapples with the recent attacks on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, locally in Mt. Juliet the community has showered its police department with support; both emotionally and with donations of food and goodies.
At a loss, and feeling somewhat helpless to fix the nation's recent turmoil, locals do what they do best. They show support to local law enforcers in any way they can. Handshakes, hugs, cards, phone calls, emails and picking up officers' restaurant checks, in addition to all the goodies delivered to the precinct. Some just smile and raise a hand on the street.
"It's been an overwhelming response," Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick said Tuesday as he sat in a room lined with tables loaded with a variety of boxed baked goods, homemade pies, donuts and cookies. In the break room several officers and a detective were enjoying restaurant BBQ and all the sides after Mt. Juliet Life Church Pastor Eddie Poole delivered a "we support you" lunch. He and some of his parishioners delivered the delicious lunch this week, because last week when they delivered some danishes, they were asked (very gratefully) why not wait a few days when things slow down a bit?
"Our community has always been very supportive," nearly four year Chief Hambrick said. "Why I say overwhelming about the recent support after the tragic police murders in our county is because in this particular setting the support has been non-stop."
He pointed to boxes of donuts little kids from Greenhill Church delivered yesterday. Then Hambrick went to a table and picked up at least a hundred homemade cards delivered to the department by area children. His face lit up as he showed off the crooked-letter notes, with shaky little figures the children drew on the cards.
Poole said his church of about 160 parishioners "have been praying for our local first responders, and of course, the families of those slain, and all the officers across our county."
"We love our local guys and gals, and I've always respected Chief Hambrick; he's a pastor also," Poole said. "Last Sunday when we were praying for the officer slain in Dallas one congregant got a text during the service telling her about the Baton Rouge massacre. Things our getting crazy and out of hand."
One of his parishioners, Sheryl Huffman, has a daughter and son-in-law whom are police officers in Metro Nashville.
MJPD employee Sandy Dempsey enjoyed the impromptu lunch delivery of Famous Dave's by Poole.
"It's been just so supportive," she said. "Just yesterday someone bought my lunch, someone from Dallas."
Officer Michael Wetzel also had someone pick up his tab. Just randomly.
"We've always been so lucky in Mt. Juliet for the support we receive. It's so unfortunate most people don't really know until something bad happens and it's highlighted."
Hambrick strong support of community policing
Many of those at the police department in Mt. Juliet point to Hambrick and said because of his steady philosophy of immersing his officers in community policing, that's the reason why the residents here have opened their arms to support them during this scary time.
"I've always told to simply to the right thing, to treat our citizens with compassion, professionalism and integrity," Hambrick said. "No, I've not really changed my talking points because of the recent tragedies. We go out and do what we do."
However, he did say he's asked his 50 officers to "be more vigilant."
"And to try to take time and not rush," he said. "I mean take time mentally, to think things through with an even higher heightened awareness."
Hambrick said when he moved to Mt. Juliet he immediately sensed the community's support.
"I right away started pushing my initiatives, and when I became chief I was able to implement them," he said. "I mean things like Coffee with a Cop and getting my officers out and about at community events. I know my officers and the citizens support my leadership, and I've been told non-stop recently. It makes me proud of our town. I'm so happy that all this in our nation hasn't stopped men and women willingly go into our profession."
'I'm a chief who happens to be African American'
Hambrick said people may think he's put in a difficult position because of the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
He shook his head.
"I'm going to be blunt," he said. "We all have to work on our race relations. All races. I'm proud of my heritage. I'm a police chief who happens to be African American. My central character as a police chief has my same policing philosophies. We still have racial issues in this country that some people may turn a blind eye to."
How can things be fixed? Hambrick shook his head.
"People have to start valuing the sanctity of life. Period. I might get push back sometimes when I say, 'All Lives Matter,' but it shouldn't be political. In this election year, people will try to make these the issues, instead of telling us a true platform."
Hambrick also said he believes in 2nd Amendment rights.
"I have no problem," he said. "But, with common sense."