By Chris Hatton
Things at the Sylva Police Department have been hectic recently. This time of year means lots of events in our beautiful town, like parades and festivals. For the police, this means lots of pre-planning meetings, creating parade routes, drawing out maps, coordinating with other departments, assessing traffic plans and making sure that we are providing you an environment where everyone is as safe as possible, but is still able to have a good time. Much of this activity goes on without anyone knowing, but we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure things go smoothly and you stay safe.
To update everyone on our new officer, Maleah Mathis, she has begun her training and she is doing quite well. She is being trained by various officers within our agency on the variety of skills she will need and how to respond to many different types of situations. During the first few weeks, we cover several crucial topics, such as proper response tactics, how to deescalate tense situations, areas of high liability for officers and where to find good coffee, even in the middle of the night.
I would also like to share a few recent experiences with everyone that involves a cause that is close to our hearts here at Sylva PD. As most everyone knows, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Sylva Police Department hosts an annual event titled, “Walk For Hope.” This event took place in downtown Sylva Saturday morning. The event was a real success this year and was attended by many survivors and lots of people who came out to show their love and support for them.
Our officers care deeply for these survivors and this cause so, we turned the town pink! Our pink police cruiser, named HOPE, was on display. All survivors were invited to sign the car. The attendees all wore pink clothing items, some were even dressed in all pink from head to toe. Our police officers and volunteers all wore pink T-shirts to show their support. Jake Scott, our Public Works director, and town Manager Paige Dowling both wore hot pink safety vests. Mayor Lynda Sossamon, and Chamber of Commerce Director Julie Donaldson, really stood out in the crowd. They both came creatively dressed in pink tutus to show their support. You looked great, ladies. We even turned the water in the fountain bright pink! It was awesome.
I got in on the fun too. Assistant Chief Rick Bryson somehow talked our uniform company, Reid’s Uniforms and Blauer, into making Sylva PD a one-of-a-kind bright pink police uniform shirt. I wore it with pride. I have to tell you folks, when the chief of police walks around Main Street wearing a hot pink uniform, it causes a lot of funny looks and much conversation from citizens and officers, as you can imagine. I loved it. Our survivors loved it too. It was a wonderful experience.
On a more serious note, while driving to the event that morning, I knew I was to be responsible for greeting and welcoming the crowd. I was pondering what I should say. I was taken back to my experiences earlier in the week while attending the Tree of Hope ceremony at Harris Regional Hospital. I met and talked to several survivors at that event. Those interactions reminded me of what a special group of people they really are. I watched these ladies who didn’t know each other, encourage one another. They supported each other by making it clear that there is hope and to keep fighting. These ladies are tough, I mean tough. They have all been through a lot. Each of them has received the diagnosis of cancer, a moment I can’t imagine, and found their own way to deal with the dark times and fight. They are all bonded together by something totally out of their control, something awful, but they choose to be positive and find a way to keep going. I am so impressed with the strength and perseverance of these ladies. They are an example to us all, and I challenge you to identify a survivor and look for ways to make them feel loved and appreciated this month. If you do that, you’ll both be better for it.
Until next time, take care of each other, slow down on our roads and watch out for people in our crosswalks.
Chris Hatton is chief of the Sylva Police Department.