SCSO honors retirement of three titans of law enforcement, recognizes more

Published 11:03 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office hosted an annual awards and promotion ceremony during the last week of January in what comprised a night of gratitude, recognition and reverence for some of the department’s finest individuals—a group that included three long serving and retiring law enforcement professionals that have shaped the sheriff’s office into the institution it is today.

In the month of January, the SCSO officially announced the retirements of Deputy David Morrow, Sgt. Barry Studdard and Capt. Jason Myrick. Each of the three, who are known and respected as being pinnacle examples of the law enforcement career, were honored independently through announcements on the sheriff’s office social media page as well as at the ceremony.

The first of three to announce their retirement after 25 years of service was Morrow, whose career with the SCSO dates back to 1998 when he worked as a corrections officer.

“David Morrow is one of the finest lawmen I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside in my entire career,” SCSO Chief Deputy Clay Hammac said. “He is a model law enforcement professional, he was a career mentor of mine and someone that I count as a personal friend.”

Although Morrow would also serve in various roles throughout his career, such as a patrol officer with the Columbiana Police Department, the position that brought him the most distinction was being one of the SCSO’s first student resource officers.

“The impact he had on the foundation of building the SRO program at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will have a generational impact for many years to come,” Hammac said. “He has spent much of his career investing in young students and young adults.”

For 15 of his 25 years with the department, Morrow served as one of the sheriff’s office most prolific SROs.

“(Serving as an SRO has been) the most fulfilling role of my career by far,” Morrow said. “In fact, I became national instructor for SROs, and I worked with the National Association of School Resource Officers. I worked for them as, as one of their instructors teaching new SROs and training them. That’s been the most fulfilling of my tenure as a law enforcement officer by far.”

Morrows tenure also included a harrowing experience in February 2013, when he played a pivotal role in the peaceful resolution of a hostage situation at Chelsea Middle School when a gunman walked into the school during afternoon dismissal and held multiple female students at gunpoint in one of the school’s locker rooms. Morrow, who was recognized by the gunman as the school’s SRO, helped to calm the situation and aided in the negotiation and eventual safe release of all students without further harm.

“One of those young ladies who has now graduated from college just reached out to him through a handwritten letter recently,” Hammac said. “She once again shared and expressed her gratitude for his bravery and commitment. Those qualities are just very typical of David Morrow, he has always put others before himself.”

While Hammac describes Morrow’s retirement as a loss to the law enforcement profession, he also described that the vast and positive impact Morrow has had on the whole of the department and to members of the community will undoubtedly carry forward.

A very similar attitude was also present within the announcement of Studdard’s retirement who first began his career as a reserve deputy in 1996 before joining the sheriff’s office in a full-time position in 1998. His career was one marked with the reputation of a commitment to public service.

“If there ever is a renaissance man of law enforcement it was Barry Studdard,” Hammac said. “Over the span of his career, he was the jack of all trades. He had a significant amount of time working patrol and then criminal investigations, then he was responsible for our training division at the sheriff’s office.”

Studdard also spent time as another of the SCSO’s first SROs and served prominently as a crisis negotiator. In that capacity, he would prove foundational in the building of the SCSO’s crisis team, which is still in effect today in part due to Studdard’s establishment of policies and trainings for the team.

“I worked very closely with Barry at the onset of my career, 20 years ago, and he allowed me to shadow him as a negotiator and so I got to learn from him,” Hammac said. “He was, hands down, one of the best crisis and hostage negotiators I think we’ve ever had the pleasure of having at the sheriff’s office.”

When it comes to the retirement of those in the law enforcement career, and other first responders, 25 years of service is the requirement to achieve retirement according the state of Alabama’s retirement system.

“It is 25 years of law enforcement service, which counts as 30 years because in the state of Alabama there is what’s called a hazard duty bill and hazardous duty is awarded to law enforcement officers and firefighters alike,” Hammac said. “For every five years of service, they are credited one additional year so with 25 calendar years of service, the retiree receives credit for 30 years.”

Myrick was the third deputy among those at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to reach that provision and elect to take their leave. His career in law enforcement first began during his military service as a military police specialist and special reaction team member for the United States Marine Corps from 1991 to 1995. He would then accept a position with the Birmingham Police Department in January 1996 before moving to the Pelham Police Department in 1998 and serving as a patrolman, field training officer, response team member, departmental firearms instructor and as the agencies’ training coordinator.

Myrick then first came to the SCSO beginning in 2006, before leaving to work with the United States Marshal Service and returning in 2013.

Hammac described Myrick as an integral link in the office’s command staff whose last assignment was serving as the commander of the SCSO Criminal Investigations Division. That division is the one primarily responsible for the investigation of all criminal activity that takes place within Shelby County.

“Even more so than that, Jason was known for his tactical leadership and he was the commander of the special operations group, which is a multi-jurisdictional group of law enforcement agencies throughout Shelby County,” Hammac said. “In simpler terms, he was in charge of anything and everything involving our tactical response—our SWAT operations, negotiations, riot control and so on. If there was every anyone who could write a manual or training book on how to do it the right way, it is without a doubt Jason Myrick.”

Among Myrick’s awards, accolades and commendations, which Hammac describes as “too many to list,” is that of the Medal of Valor which was received during Myrick’s work with the Marshals Service where he served as a task force officer with the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force. During that tenure, Myrick took part in numerous high-profile cases that included the case of Adam Christopher Mayes, who was among the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top 10 most wanted criminals at the time.

“Everything that he put his hand to was done with excellence,” Hammac said. “As a chief, whenever I would hear of a critical incident—and I called to get a situation update and found out that Jason Myrick was on the scene—I would breathe a little bit easier. I always knew there was a strong leader on the scene that was devoted to the mission and was caring about our people and our citizens.”

The timing of Morrow, Studdard and Myrick’s retirement can be attributed to the hiring efforts seen in Shelby County that took place more than 20 years ago, when the county began to see a significant increase in population.

“(At that time) the County Commission allowed the sheriff’s office to begin hiring a larger number of deputies to become full staff,” Hammac said. “Here we are now, approaching 25 years later, and it is absolutely reasonable to understand that this is the rotational effect of a career in law enforcement. You put 25 years in and then you would understand that there is a next wave of law enforcement leaders that will be coming in behind you and may that always be the case, may we always be rotational and finding individuals that look to make this their career.”

In recognizing the service and impact of all three men, Hammac credited them for following a principle often spouted by Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego which is to have leaders that create leaders.

“One of the fundamental responsibilities of our supervisors is to identify three, four or five individuals that can easily come up behind you in the ranks,” Hammac said. “The ultimate goal is for your successors to be more successful than you were. All three of these gentlemen were successful in doing just that. To say that their absence will not be felt would be a lie. These were significant leaders in our agency, informal and formal. But, they invested very well in making other leaders.”

Morrow’s retirement leaves a currently active roster of 14 SROs that serve the number of the schools dispersed throughout unincorporated areas of the county. Additionally, through contract services, the sheriff’s office provides school resource serves to some of the counties private schools who choose to participate.

Myrick, who was currently operating in the dual roles of special operations commander and criminal investigations commander at the time of his retirement, has left the special operations group commander role in the hands of Lt. Nathan Kendrick, who previously served as Myrick’s second in command.

“Kendrick has a career with the sheriff’s office spanning a little over 17 years and then prior to that he was with the Montgomery Police Department,” Hammac said. “He has a great deal of experience in the tactical response area and just administrative and tactical leadership as well.”

The transition to appoint a new captain of the criminal investigations division also continues with a number of highly qualified candidates being considered. However, all transitions, duties and responsibilities have continued forward without a single missed step.

“Though this is a sad loss for our sheriff’s office family, it is a celebration nonetheless,” Hammac said. “We are celebrating the years of service of these gentlemen and their distinguished legacy they are leaving behind. These are great men and they deserve to be honored for their faithful years of service. The law enforcement profession is a hard one and for someone to have faithfully served for 25-plus years, they deserve our appreciation, our respect and recognition.”

Also recognized during the month of January, and displaying the doctrine of leaders creating leaders, the following deputies among the SCSO received rank promotions:

  •  Denver McCool – captain
  •  David Perry – lieutenant
  •  Janet Parker – lieutenant
  •  Shane Plyler – lieutenant
  •  Clayton Smith – lieutenant
  •  Debra Good – sergeant
  •  Bo Collum – sergeant
  •  Alex Davis – sergeant
  •  Josh Donahoo – sergeant
  •  Chris Harmon – sergeant
  •  David Pressley – sergeant
  •  Jonathan Seales – sergeant

The following employees of the SCSO were also recognized and received the following awards for their performance of duty:

  •  Deputy Brad Scott – Purple Heart
  •  Deputy Cody Childress -Purple Heart
  •  Sgt. Jayme Moore – Meritorious Service x2
  •  Deputy Logan Brady – Meritorious Service
  •  Sgt. Tim Billingsley – Meritorious Service
  •  Deputy Mel Janousek – Meritorious Service
  •  Deputy Jacob Oliver – Meritorious Service
  •  Sgt. Jonathan Seales – Meritorious Service
  •  Sgt.  Keith Webb – Meritorious Service
  •  Deputy Matt Sulenski – Meritorious Service
  •  Deputy Paul Fleming – Meritorious Service
  •  Deputy Nick Lemoine – Meritorious Service
  •  Deputy Sam Hardy – Meritorious Service
  •  Sgt. Alex Davis – Meritorious Service
  • Capt. Kevin Turner – Meritorious Service
  •  Amanda McKinnon – Sheriff’s Award