Police Department full of heroes

I remember vividly where I was when I heard the terrible news one year ago.

As I walked into our office early on Dec. 4, 2009, Austin Phillips, one of my former co-workers, somberly asked me if I had heard about the tragedy the night before on Interstate 65 in Pelham.

“A Pelham Police officer got shot and killed last night during a traffic stop,” he said, while scrambling to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the death of on-duty Pelham officer Philip Davis.

It took a moment for those words to sink in. I had lived in Shelby County most of my life, and it seemed impossible for such an event to occur in the city I grew up in.

It was the first time Pelham police officers had lost a brother, and the first Pelham police family to grieve the loss of their loved one.

We all know that police officers risk their lives every day to make sure we are safe while we go about our lives, but sometimes we forget how real that danger is until an event like this happens.

Since learning of his death, I have had the privilege of speaking to many members of the community who knew and worked alongside Davis day in and day out.

From what I have heard, Davis was a dedicated family man who loved his job, his co-workers and his city. Nearly everyone I have spoken with about Davis was quick to point out his sense of humor.

It sounds like he had no qualms about playing practical jokes on his fellow officers in the department’s evidence lab, filling out over-the-top incident reports or gluing items like pens and scissors to the table.

Hearing about Davis over the past year has given me an insight into the relationship police officers have with each other and the community.

Many of us only encounter police officers on the side of the road following a momentary lapse in driving judgment, so it is easy sometimes to view them in a negative light.

But without officers willing to knowingly enter harm’s way every day, we would not be able to enjoy the safety we do in Shelby County.

Next time you see a police officer, please take a moment to thank them for helping to make our city one of the best in the country. I know I will.

Neal Wagner is City Editor of the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 17 or by e-mail at neal.wagner@shelbycountyreporter.com.