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Rookie Thomson Police Department officers face unknown sitations in first year

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Chris Mullis never puts on his Thomson Police Department uniform without his bulletproof vest and his uncle’s small, gold St. Christopher pendant.

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Thomson Police Department Officer Matt Hammond (right) talks about his past with training dogs as officer Chris Mullis pets Fidgy at Augusta Common.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Thomson Police Department Officer Matt Hammond (right) talks about his past with training dogs as officer Chris Mullis pets Fidgy at Augusta Common.

One year after graduating from Augusta Technical College’s Peace Officers Train­ing Academy, Mullis still remembers his professor, Eric Snow­berger, adding names to his list of officers who died in the line of duty during their 18-week course. Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy James “J.D.” Paugh joined that wall just days before Mullis graduated.

“You always think those things happen in other places,” he said. “But when it happened here, we all realized how real it was.”

Mullis, 27, and another Thom­son rookie, Officer Matt Hammond, 36, have been on the force for one year.

Hammond, a former military police officer, was slightly more prepared for life on the streets, he said. He is also a police dog trainer of many years, and he was able to bring in his own dog, 2-year-old Fidgy.

At age 14, his father’s friend, the sheriff and police dog trainer in Junction City, Ore., sent a dog flying at him with teeth bared. Ever since, Hammond has been determined to stay involved with training the animals.

“You don’t forget the first time a dog comes at you,” he said, explaining that the sheriff had given him a protective sleeve for training purposes.

Hammond said Fidgy has been instrumental in several drug busts.

Unlike his fellow rookie, Mullis pulled his gun on someone for the first time this year, an experience he has a hard time explaining.

“You can’t put it into words, but you never forget it,” he said. “Pulling your weapon on someone is a whole different ball game.”

Mullis comes from a long line of Thomson firefighters. His grandfather was an assistant fire chief, and his father was the first fire investigator. It was never a question for him whether he was going to be in public safety; it was just a matter of in what capacity.

“I told my granddad, even firemen need a hero, and those are police officers,” Mullis said. “He doesn’t like it when I say that.”

Because he was born and raised in Thomson, Mullis has been faced with some challenges. After having to arrest a childhood buddy, he said his friends learned he wasn’t going to be lenient.

“We have to follow the law,” he said. “People who aren’t in law enforcement sometimes don’t understand.”

For Hammond, the big difference he has seen since moving from the military and federal side is the amount of education required. He said that as a military police officer, he was taught just enough to be dangerous. In Snowberger’s class, Hammond learned how to be a community officer. He was taught the value of counseling a battered woman and how to calm an irate man without engaging him.

“I learned how to talk on the civilian side,” he said.

Mullis and Hammond agreed the most perilous moment on the job so far has been issuing warrants, a situation that is always partially unknown.

“If you aren’t scared, you aren’t doing the job right,” Mullis said. “Being scared makes you pay more attention.”

Hammond said the best part of being an officer has been riding with his best friend every day, his Belgian Malinois who discovered drugs on her very first call.

“She’s a great partner,” he said. “She’s smart. She’s very smart.”

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bclicious 11/11/12 - 11:18 pm
This is good.--Need more stories like this!

Augusta Chronicle,

Why not make more stories like this? It seems to me that all of these police, fire, EMS, and sheriff's depts are all part of the CSRA. Why not make an attempt to talk more about the personnel in a story or 2 per month. I always see stories where they are investigating crimes or responding to an emergency, but how bout focus on the individual people.

I can't speak for everyone who reads Augusta Chronicle, but I find this stuff very interesting. Lastly, please don't use this as an excuse to only speak about the various Chiefs and Sheriffs. I want to hear about the everyday personnel, not the command staff.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 11/12/12 - 01:29 am

This is the fluff piece from hell. Absolutely no news value here. And it certainly does not belong on the "most discussed" list after only one post. The election fraud thread has 15 posts and is not on the list. The algorithm has a bug in it.

aninsider 11/13/12 - 10:26 am
Great human interest story

Great human interest story about people who put their lives on the line to protect and serve folks they don't even inow. I agree with bclicious - we need more stories like this. I know Office Mullis' grandfather and knew his father before he died (in the fire department service). I also know Officer Mullis' bother, J.R., who is in the military and has served our country for many years. This family has carried on a tradition of service. We need more famlies like this.

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