By Hannah Caver, Staff Writer
LEEDS — Policing in a city like Leeds requires patience, diligence, and an understanding of the community that officers serve. LPD Lieutenant Wilbert Griffin has done that throughout his career, and now it’s time for him to step away.
Griffin shared a quote by George Washington Carver that meant a great deal to him as he served the city.
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.”
Griffin said he wanted to treat people the way he would like to be treated, and during his time with the Leeds Police Department, he was able to give back to those who were there for him.
“I’ve tried to spend my time with children, and I’ve tried to spend my time with the elderly because I hope that one day, true enough, I can look back in life and say, well, I really have been all those things,” Griffin said.
Before joining the Leeds Police Department, Griffin was an underground coal miner for 18 years, but after a close friend informed him he “wasn’t cut out to be a coal miner,” Griffin began looking into the Leeds Police Department.
“My first interview was with the Leeds Police Department. I left there thinking I would never have a job there,” Griffin said. “I just didn’t think I fared well with the interview.”
But to Griffin’s surprise, he got the job, and in August of 1997, he donned the uniform for the first time. Everything seemed to be falling into place a couple of years after being hired, Griffin got married, but only a year into their marriage, tragedy struck: Griffin’s wife was killed in a car accident in 2000.
It was a difficult time in Griffin’s life, but he explained that he believes light will always shine through the darkness.
“If it weren’t for the citizens of Leeds, I would not be here today,” Griffin said. “They really helped me tremendously, and ever since then, I’ve tried to give back to children here at the department and at the schools.”
Griffin explained how the officers with Leeds Police Department were his family, and he expressed his gratitude for how they stood with him through the good and the bad.
“Thank you to the city, citizens, and thank you to the people that I work with,” Griffin said.
All the times that the community has stood by him and taken him in under their wing have not gone unnoticed. In his efforts to give back to the city of Leeds, Griffin has been a part of Read Across America; he’s been a D.A.R.E officer, a school resource officer, and even headed up programs where he gave Christmas gifts to children in need.
“Thank you to the citizens of Leeds for making me feel like Leeds is my home,” Griffin said. “The times that they really took care of me, they don’t realize exactly what they were doing for me, but it was very appreciated. I want to tell everybody that I have a great love for Leeds and the citizens of Leeds, and I just thank you.”
As Griffin looks back over his career, he is reminded of the man who walked into the Leeds Police Department with nothing to show that he was qualified for this job. Still, Chief Tony Hudson and Lieutenant Ricky Parker saw something in Griffin, something that he hadn’t seen in himself, and it was a decision that changed his life forever.
“I am so appreciative to know those two gentlemen,” Griffin said. “They saw something in me I didn’t see, but they allowed me to become a better officer. They kind of sculpted me, and I just wanted to tell them thank you.”
Griffin met his wife Sharon in 2010 before marrying her in 2013. He explained how she is a school teacher, and she pushed him to be the best he could be.
“I guess she also saw something in me that maybe I didn’t know I had because she always pushed me to do things,” Griffin said. “She invited me to her school to read to the kids and to be known by the kids as an officer, so she propelled me to always want to do things with children.”
The children have held a special place in his heart. He described a picture hanging in his wife’s class that depicts a police car with Sergeant Griffin written on it. Griffin said every time he sees that drawing, it brings him so much joy to know he’s impacting these children’s lives.
“I’ve read to the kids here in Leeds and her school, and it’s just a warm feeling,” Griffin said. “It’s not just here in Leeds, but when we talk about [Sharon], she’s promoted that for me, she’s shown me how to care about kids. She’s a loving person, and she’s given me that ability to do the same thing to show that I care, to show that I love kids.”
Griffin said many people have touched his life in Leeds, many of whom he calls his close friends, and he would like to thank all of those people for opening their arms and houses to him and making him feel at home.
“All of it has been a grooming process from the teachers at the school to people that adopted me as their child,” Griffin said. “It’s been a great and wonderful experience.”