Law enforcement officers explain challenges of being public servants at MTSU forum

Photo and story by Rachael Anne Keisling / Contributing Writer

Three law enforcement officers were a part of a panel discussion at the Student Union Building in the Parliamentary Room on Tuesday. The participants described what their jobs entail and the challenges of being a public servant.

The discussion was led by Lynda Williams, an MTSU alumna and professor of the Department of Criminal Justice Administration in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.

The panel included Sgt. Charlie Caplinger of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Capt. Anthony April of the Alaska State Troopers and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Jason Wilkerson. The panelists were asked about the primary unethical situations they encountered in their careers.

“(I’ve had to) arrest fellow troopers, meaning that you do not sugarcoat anything for them just because they are in uniform,” April said. “(There’s) no blue vs us. Just do the right thing.”

Caplinger said he had to “arrest deputies and city officers for DUI’s.” Caplinger mentioned that he had to take extra measures to ensure he does his job in an ethical manner. For example, if he picked up a drunk deputy, dropped them off at their place of residence and found out that he was supposed to work with that deputy on his next shift, he would lose his job for not following orders.

Wilkerson said that, just because you have a gun and a badge, it “does not mean that you can get away with it.”

“There are restrictions where you can go and not go,” Wilkerson said.

When asked about balancing their home life and job, Caplinger said, “You must make time for yourself, but remember that this is a 24/7, 365 day job.”

He also mentioned that the job and marriage are tough because law enforcement officers are on call on a daily basis, and it’s important for their spouses to understand why they arrive home later than usual.

Although Wilkerson said he is not married, he said it’s tough to maintain your home life and job because there are important events that will have to be missed in order to keep your town safe. He said that they are required to travel to many rural counties as backup for traffic stops.

April briefly mentioned that, although he and his wife are military veterans, in order to serve the country and state, you must have passion and a “date night,” which can strengthen your marriage.

The last question Williams asked the three law enforcement officers was regarding the requirements for their agencies. Wilkerson said that you must be 21 years of age with a drivers license, have a bachelors degree, have military experience and other advanced college degrees. Caplinger and April said that their requirements are quite similar except for the starting salary within those agencies. April mentioned the starting salary in his area ranges from $62,000 to $67,000, while Caplinger’s department starting salary begins at $40,000.

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