Retiring cop looks for ‘new adventure’

Published 10:47 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

Retired: Sgt. Chuck Terrell retired Dec. 31 after 25 years on the Suffolk Police Department. Among other voluntary duties, he served on the dive team and honor guard.

Sgt. Chuck Terrell has a hard time picking a defining moment from his 25-year career in the Suffolk Police Department.

There was the time he dove into the frigid waters of a retention pond in January 2003 to save a young boy who had fallen through the ice and been stuck for more than an hour. Even after being revived by paramedics, the boy didn’t last through the night.

Then there was the time he was training a rookie on a rainy night, and the pair got a call for a “beast” roaming the downtown streets. They ended up fishing a beaver out of a muddy ditch with the help of a plastic tub.

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“One defining moment? They’ve all shaped me,” Terrell said on Dec. 30, one day before he retired from the department. “There’s been days out there I’ve seen things that brought me to tears, but there’s been days I laughed so hard I hurt.”

Terrell, 51, is retiring from the department to spend more time with his family, including his six grandchildren. However, he’s leaving a legacy at the department, including innumerable officers he trained as rookies and even some he mentored in the Explorer post he founded.

“I’ve made a lot of good friends that I don’t call friends,” he said. “I call them my family.”

Prior to police work, Terrell spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, being stationed at Camp Lejeune and in California, Japan and Egypt.

When he decided he wanted to move on from that, his father was living in Suffolk and mentioned that the police department was hiring.

“I got the whole weekend off,” Terrell said of his break between the Marines and the Suffolk Police Department. “And worked many a weekend since then.”

He’s also made himself a very visible presence in the police department. While many may think they don’t know him, if they’ve ever seen the police department’s honor guard at an event, benefited from the sacrifices of the dive team or had a child at King’s Fork Middle School during its first few years, they know Terrell.

He readily volunteered for the honor guard and dive team assignments, as well as being a DARE officer and resource officer at King’s Fork Middle School and serving on the community policing unit.

The most longstanding commitment was the honor guard, which Terrell joined just one year after joining the department. The week of his departure, he turned in the uniform that included the original jacket he was issued.

“It was pretty hard turning in that uniform,” he said. “To go out there and represent this department gave me so much joy and, forgive me for the word, pride.”

Terrell said the job has changed in the last 25 years. Officers used to arrive at work early to pick out the best radios, because some of them barely worked. When he first started in Suffolk, there was one dispatcher, and the officers themselves had to work the phones when she was off duty. And today’s ubiquitous computers were nowhere to be found in 1985.

“Everything we did was on paper and everything had better be right, including grammar and spelling,” he said.

Now that he’s retired, Terrell said it’s “time for a new adventure.”

“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “The only thing I’ve known since I was 18 years old is a uniform. I’m going from this uniform to a T-shirt, a pair of shorts and flip-flops.”