New police on the beat all come with experience

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Lewisburg's three new police officers are, above from left, Terry Ebenstein, Jennifer McDonald and Detective Sgt. David Henley. Meanwhile, McDonald sports one of the composite holsters with safety features.

There's some indication that Lewisburg's Police department is reversing the flow of employees from small departments to large agencies.

A common lament among small town leaders and their county government friends is that their departments are where employees get training and experience before they move on.

"I'd like to attribute it to the department and the community's reputation," Police Chief Chuck Forbis said after last week's meeting of the Police Advisory Board where he introduced three new employees.

They are:

* Officers Terry Ebenstein, a former Maury County Sheriff's deputy;

* Jennifer McDonald, a former patrol officer in North Charleston, S.C. who's also been an information systems operator with the Army National Guard, and;

* Detective Sgt. David Henley who comes to Lewisburg from the Williamson County Sheriff's Department by way of Iraq where he trained local police for DynaCorp, a U.S. government contractor.

As for attracting experienced officers, instead of training and then losing them, Forbis says, "Obviously, if they have a bad reputation, it's hard to attract quality applicants."

Losing law enforcement officers to other departments can result in recurring costs; notably for training because of the cost of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy at Donelson in Metro-Nashville, Davidson County.

Uniforms and something that might be called "institutional memory," are, respectively, relatively nominal and immeasurable assets for a department.

All three new employees have training and experience, but McDonald took time off to have a child, Forbis said. The interval was long enough to allow her certification to lapse. Ebenstein and Henley come to Lewisburg directly from law enforcement work.

All three new officers live in the county or will be moving to the Lewisburg area.

Ebenstein, McDonald and Henley told about themselves during the Thursday night meeting of the Police Advisory Board, a new panel established in late 2007. Its membership includes former Lewisburg Police Chief Wayne Coomes, former Marshall County Commission Chairwoman Lina Horner, City Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr., the Rev. Steve Thomas, the minister at Union Presbyterian Church, and Ronald Greer, a retired plant department supervisor.

Ebenstein, 34, was a Maury County patrol deputy for nine years. He's an instructor on how cases are to be made against drunken driving suspects. And he's got experience with domestic assault cases, Forbis said. Ebenstein was a field-training officer in Maury County. He's been a Shelbyville Police officer and has studied at Columbia State Community College.

Ebenstein, of Columbia, was "very involved" in raising funds for the family of a law enforcement officer who had been shot in the face, Forbis said. Support for the Lewisburg community for Ebenstein's cause was among the reasons he applied for work here.

McDonald, 34, who lives in the Chapel Hill area, earned a double major diploma from Charleston Southern University where she studied criminal justice and political science.

Her 10-week course at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy starts Oct. 11.

For 12 years, Henley was with the Williamson County Sheriff's Department where he was a patrol officer, a patrol supervisor and a detective.

"He was their SWAT Team leader and instructor," Forbis said. "He's also been a field training officer and a crime scene technician and has several certificates related to weapons, armor and instruction."

Henley is now leading the Lewisburg Police Department's Detective Division that includes Detectives Sanitago McKlean, Scott Braden and James "Pugs" Johnson.

Henley left the WCSD to work for DynaCorp.

Another addition to the police department includes updated equipment. While Forbis hadn't had an opportunity to confer with McDonald about information technology, he explained the holster she and other officers are wearing in Lewisburg.

It's a Black Hawk brand Level 3 holster made of a hard composite material with what the company boasts is "innovative security" so that a suspect can't get an officer's gun from their holster. Snaps, hooks and straps are replaced with a pivotal guard and another locking device. An officer can release it quickly in one gun-drawing motion.

"We train for that," Forbis said.