Dive team’s sacrifices commendable

Published 7:46 pm Monday, January 10, 2011

Last month, I interviewed Suffolk Police Sgt. Chuck Terrell about his retirement.

Terrell retired on New Year’s Eve, a few days before my story about him ran in the newspaper.

Sgt. Terrell was one of the first Suffolk police officers I met when I started working at the Suffolk News-Herald more than four years ago. During those years, I interviewed him on several occasions, including about the importance of bulletproof vests (I remember Chuck knocking on his own chest to demonstrate that he wore his every day), the sacrifices of the dive team (Chuck was always ready to tell about what the dive team does, and why) and the community policing unit (yet another of the extra duties Chuck volunteered for).

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He spent the most time on the honor guard, which benefited from his service for 24 of the 25 years he was on the police department.

However, in most of my interviews with him, his passion for the dive team was evident.

He spent plenty of time explaining to me and others why being a police diver is no vacation excursion.

Unlike leisure divers, those on law enforcement dive teams don’t get to choose the time, place or temperature of their dives. They often are called out to dives in the nighttime hours and on days off, possibly a half-hour’s drive from their home in the middle of a January rain.

And, also unlike leisure divers, law enforcement divers aren’t looking for pretty fish and undersea formations. They could be seeking evidence in a crime, helping to recover a dead body or looking for the victim of a homicide, suicide or accidental death.

One of the last times I saw Sgt. Terrell was on Oct. 29 at Constant’s Wharf Marina, where he had been called to help recover a body from the water. At this particular dive, the weather was nice and the water, he informed me, wasn’t too cold.

However, it’s clear that the dive team — for which participants volunteer — makes extraordinary sacrifices above and beyond the call of duty for police officers. With all the waterways, lakes and retention ponds within Suffolk, they also provide a necessary ancillary service to the ordinary course of law enforcement in Suffolk.

So the next time you say a prayer for the public safety officers in Suffolk, remember to give special thanks for Terrell and others like him who volunteer for assignments that bring them added inconvenience, danger and sacrifice.