EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is a statement that Jackie Rouse, mother of the late Lt. Cliff Rouse, made to the Dougherty County Commission on Monday. She asked that it be published as a guest column.
We are Tommy and Jackie Rouse, the parents of Lt. Cliff Rouse, the Dougherty County police officer who was killed on Dec. 23, 2010 in the line of duty. It is exactly 544 days today. He died protecting the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Dougherty County. These are rights that he believed in as an officer that every individual is entitled to as a citizen of this county or any other county.
Now I am not going to go into all the history about our son because the legacy he has left behind surely speaks for him, as you all know. I will say this: My son was proud to be an officer with the Dougherty County Police Department, and he knew every day when he put on that uniform, his protective gear and that brass badge he was facing imminent danger. But on the other hand, he was true to the oath he had taken and proudly served this county.
Lt. Cliff Rouse believed in the protection of citizens from crime and that they were all entitled to the rights and freedom to enjoy without the threats. Every county and state is riddled with crime, and all you have to do is read a newspaper or listen to any local or national news to know what we have become.
We received so many cards and phone calls after his death informing us of things he did beyond the call of duty, but that is how DCP trains their officers. They are part of Dougherty County's finest. You see, I am partial to DCP and have been for almost 21 years. When Lt. Rouse became an officer, we became his second family and for five years before he had a family of his own. Many family gatherings were scheduled around his working hours.
The Dougherty County Police Department has been an agency for more than 80 years, and you commissioners sit here today to decide the fate of this agency. This agency has worked the last four years with no pay increase. They work with obsolete equipment, vehicles with over 200,00 miles and they are short-staffed. Many of the officers have left or they are leaving because other agencies can offer more than DCP can give them. Many of these officers have second jobs to help accommodate their living expenses. Now, I personally know about furlough days, no pay increases and having to trim budgets, but in my job those cuts did not come at cutting the service to the public.
I don't pay property taxes in Dougherty County, but I do pay sales tax because I frequently shop here. I live in a county that has less than 4,000 residents and all of those residents do not own property, so it is left up to the few of us to pay taxes. I am like every other citizen when I get my tax notice. I cringe, fuss about it, complain and do what other people do. I do not like to pay taxes, but I pay them. These taxes are used to fund our county, and when I need a public servant I know they are there for me to offer the protection they themselves are sworn to.
As you sit here, you have to know that you are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you start cutting police officers, firemen and ambulance service. When you have less patrol officers in an area, you just open the door for more crime. It does not have to be at night; they have become brazen enough to commit crimes in broad, open daylight.
DCP officers have worked together as a family, and they pull together in their times of need. I have seen it first-hand when they lost a fellow officer. They are well-trained and take this job seriously. I am asking you as a staunch supporter of DCP that you reconsider your options and leave this agency as one of Dougherty County's finest. These citizens in the areas patrolled by DCP are well-deserved individuals who are entitled to the rights and protection taken by the oath of a police officer. As you know, Lee County just buried one of its finest (who'd been) protecting our freedom in the United States. My son died protecting the citizens of Dougherty County. Those who complain about increased property taxes, are they going to be the ones who complain about the crime in their area and no protection or are they going to complain about response time to a crime because the agency is short-staffed or will they see a crime in progress or another dead officer in their yards? Every county and state has had to cut the trim budgets, but they found monies from other cuts to fund the public servants. Again, I am asking you as a supporter of DCP to weigh all of your options.
As I said, I don't give a lot to Dougherty in money, but I gave my all. Tommy and I gave our son to the Dougherty County Police Department and to the citizens of Dougherty County. He died doing a job that he truly loved. His wife, Christine, his children, Braxton and Bradley Lynn, gave the ultimate sacrifice also. We, as the Rouse family, stand behind this department with our heart and soul. No other family should have to face the loss of a loved one in such a tragic way. I assume that each of you have children and if you do, never fail to say "I love you," hug them, kiss them no matter the age, just always be there for them. Life is too short, and you never know. It could be the last chance you have with them, and if something happens you will cherish that time and your memories.
Next, commissioners, rally behind your departments. Pat them on the shoulder, shake their hands, tell them what a good job they are doing and always pray for their safety. Police officers, firemen and ambulance personnel are always in danger. The next call could be for you.
Jackie and Tommy Rouse are residents of Newton.