03/06/11 — Being the best he can

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Being the best he can

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 6, 2011 1:50 AM

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Rodney Jarman has been a Fremont police officer for only a small time but he has made a big impact on the community.

With only 15 months at the Fremont Police Department, Rodney Jarman has already made a big impact.

The 23-year-old, one of only two full-time officers, received his third official commendation from the department Thursday night for extraordinary service.

The formal recognition was for Jarman's actions on New Year's Day when he apprehended a man after he allegedly fatally shot his girlfriend.

Jarman was in his vehicle trying to catch speeders when the call of shots fired came over the radio from dispatch. His close proximity allowed him to have six-second response time.

But when he arrived on the scene, his radio went out of range and he was unable to communicate with other officers or dispatch. Deciding to secure the scene by himself, Jarman proceeded to extend his arms into a "cross draw" with his gun in one hand and tazer in the other.

Jarman said the victim was lying on the ground when the suspect stumbled out from between the mobile homes and fell on top of the victim. He explained that he originally thought the suspect was a second victim, but then the man rose to his knees and began pulling the trigger of an empty revolver pointed at the victim's head.

"As this point, I didn't see him retrieve (the gun). I am just hearing the clicking. Then he turns and I see the barrel of the gun and my first thought was 'That is my shooter.' Instead of pulling my firearm away, I deployed my tazer."

After subduing the suspect and prying the revolver from his hands, Jarman rolled him off of the victim and initiated CPR on her.

Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene moments later.

Honorio Grajales, 44, was taken into custody and Teresa Pierce Harrelson, 49, died.

"It was thrilling and heart pounding. It was my first murder I had done as a police officer," Jarman said.

But while it wasn't his first encounter with a fatality -- he has served as a volunteer firefighter in Hugo for nearly five years -- he said he could not have handled it without the help of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

"I have seen a lot of stuff that people probably wouldn't want to see. I have seen a lot of death, but I have never seen something quite like that. It was by far the most extreme thing I have done in law enforcement," he said. "I tell you one thing, that would have played out a whole lot different had I not had the help of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. I couldn't imagine handling the whole scene itself without the Sheriff's Office help."

Another commendation Jarman received recognized his work not on patrol, but from behind a desk.

Jarman explained that he was chosen to serve as the department's terminal agency coordinator, a position that prepares for an SBI audit that takes place every two years.

Jarman's task was to collect data from the computer systems, which facilities computerized functions officers use on the job, including access to  criminal record checks, sex offender registry, vehicle registrations and driver's license registrations.

Two days following his acceptance of the position Jarman received a call from the SBI that there was going to be an audit.

"I just walked into it. I didn't know much about it," Jarman said.

Making the job much more difficult, Fremont's DCI terminal system crashed just prior to Jarman taking the position.

"There was no paper trail left for me. I started from ground zero, pretty much. I had two months to do it, when other people had years to prepare," Jarman said.

Jarman said he had to bounce around Pikeville, the Sheriff's Office and the 911 center to recover as much of the lost information as he could.

Faced with the excessive work load, Jarman chose to put in a lot of overtime.

"It took a lot of my time off. I didn't expect to come here to work a 12-hour shift and sit in that office and work 12 hours on my DCI stuff. I felt I had a job to be here for the community. People want to see this patrol car out riding around. If something happens, people want that patrol car to be there and they want an officer there," he said. "A lot of times I would come in on my day off, and a lot of times I would not be compensated. I just felt like, hey, the town is struggling as it is, everybody is in a financial crisis, there is no need to try to run them in the dirt trying to pay me for all this time," Jarman said.

Jarman said he did not realize until he was actually working on the audit that hefty fines could be imposed on the department if the audit was found to be in noncompliance.

"There was thousands and thousand of dollars in fines that we were subject to, but I corrected the problem."

Jarman said the department could even have lost access to the DCI system if shown to be noncompliant by the SBI.

"It was very, very mind blowing and mind opening when I found out, wow, this is what is going to happen if we fail and they put all this on me. It made me feel good that they trust me that much," Jarman said.

Jarman's hard work resulted in the department passing the audit.

"It  was two months of hard work and headache for about 20 minutes of 'Hey, good job,'" Jarman said. "I am just glad that I took the time that I did to get it done and do it right."

The third commendation received by Jarman was for his completion of a North Carolina Field Training Officer weeklong course and being elected to the association's president.

Jarman said he was asked to serve as president within four hours of completing the course.

"It keeps me very busy, but I enjoy it. It is one of those things I am actually quite proud of."

But Jarman doesn't go above the call of duty simply for the recognition.

"I love helping the community," Jarman said.

Jarman's love of the community can also be seen in his outreach to Fremont's youths, something he does, partly, to help create a positive image of law enforcement officials.

Jarman said some kids a have negative perception of law enforcement based on peer pressure or input from their families.

"Let's face it, not everybody has good dealing of law enforcement, so there are times when that is going to bleed down to the younger kids, and they are automatically going to have in their minds that the police are only here to lock me up, write me a ticket, things of that nature."

To combat this negativity, Jarman is involved in the Boys and Girls Club and the organization A Lot of Direction, Love and Affection, spending time in Fremont Elementary and Norwayne Middle schools.

Jarman said he tells the children that being a police officer is not only about making arrests.

"Out of 100 percent of my time, 5 percent of that time is spent locking people up. The other 95 percent of that time training, educating individuals, doing paperwork, reports, things of that nature," Jarman said.

While Jarman is more rookie than veteran, he has learned how to overcome his inexperience.

"I just try to be the best officer that I can be, no matter my age or my experience," he said. "A lot of times, if I run into something I am not quite sure about, that is what you have supervisors for and that is what you have veteran officers for.

"I have some good guys and women that I work with, they all promote everything that I do. There are a lot of them that question me when am I going on to bigger and better things, but I like what I am doing here, and I think I can use my potential here better than I can use it elsewhere right now," Jarman said. "I get a lot of slaps on the back from the guys I work with and the women I work with. It makes me feel good about what I do."