RANSON – Five new officers have joined the 17-member Ranson Police Department. The police force recruits include two military combat veterans, two former businessmen and a recent university graduate.
Each new officer said he was drawn to the community policing model that Ranson follows to protect and serve the city’s more than 5,000 residents. Three have graduated from the West Virginia Police Academy in Charleston, and two are at the academy’s intensive training now.
Each new officer said he is looking forward to getting to know more and more people in the community they only recently began to serve.
Officer Tim Hood, 35, went into the Marine Corps right out of high school. Moving from military service and a policing career was a natural transition, he said.
“For me, serving your country, serving your people, was something that I thought was important and really enjoyed doing,” he explained. “So after getting out [of the military] law enforcement was sort of a similar set in a way for me to keep serving the community.”
Hood previously worked seven combined years as a police officer for the Virginia communities of Purcellville and Haymarket. He said he made the career jump to Ranson’s police force to be closer to home in Jefferson County. He learned the city’s police force had a “shining and very good” reputation, he said, for community policing-style law enforcement.
“It sounded like the same type of law enforcement style that I enjoy doing,” he said.
Hood said he enjoys police work “for the gratification that you get for helping your fellow man.
“I’ve learned that I have the heart of a servant, so being in public service and being there to help the people within your community is something that I value and I think is very important.”
After growing up in Baltimore County, Hood joined the Marines and served three combat tours in Iraq and Haiti.
His later experience in policing so far, he said, has reinforced the importance of projecting respect and learning how to constructively interact with people from all walks of life.
Hood said he wants citizens to know that police officers want to be “approachable” and be involved in the community beyond traffic stops and responding to 911 calls. He said he wants to encourage Ranson residents to say hello, get to know him and feel free to tell him whatever might be on their minds.
“Maybe with the current stigma [of law enforcement representatives] going on, people don’t feel that way or are afraid to approach and speak with their police officers,” he said. “That’s not how we want it to be. That’s not what we’re in this line of work for.”
“We’re here to help people, not just take people to jail,” he added. “Come talk to us. Approach your local department. Learn who their officers are and let us learn who you are.”
His first day on the beat was last month. He started patrolling mostly on a noon to 10 p.m. shift.
During his off hours, Hood enjoys road trips on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a few other combat veterans. That’s when he has a few spare hours away from his main priority and time commitment, he said—his wife and a teenage son and daughter.
Officer Ty Carroll’s father and grandfather were former Jefferson County police leaders who inspired his decision to pursue a law enforcement career. His father and grandfather were police officers in Ranson, where his grandfather served a police chief.
“It’s just in my family,” Carroll said of his new career.
Carroll, 24, said he wants to serve a role in helping people. “Just trying to make this place better and just helping people as much as you can,” he explained. “I like connecting with the community more, and community policing. That’s something that they really focused on in college and I really connected with.”
A graduate of Washington High School in 2015, Carroll earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice last year from Fairmont State University.
He said he’s learned that community policing involves gaining the trust of local residents so they become involved in helping police keep the wider community safe. Building such trust, he said, can involve actively participating in fundraisers or other non-policing activities to improve the community.
“I like the job that I’ve been doing,” he added. “Every day’s different.”
Carroll has been on patrol in Ranson since July, most recently working a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. He left last month to undergo 10 straight weeks of rigorous coursework and bootcamp-style training at the police academy.
Carroll said he enjoyed playing local baseball growing up in Jefferson County—until college, where he gave up his spot as catcher and first-baseman to focus on his criminal justice studies.
Carroll said he’s not worried about any possible stigma or skepticism rubbing off on police officers in Jefferson County from media coverage of Black Lives Matter protests in other communities across the country. He said he’s confident his police training will prepare him for upholding public safety fairly and properly.
“Some people will love you, some people will hate you,” he added, acknowledging what can be a difficult role in police work. “You won’t satisfy everybody.”
Officer Aaron Hutcherson spent 20 years in the U.S. Army right out of high school in Montgomery County. As a scout conducting missions in front of combat lines, he was deployed to five overseas tours in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He earned Bronze Star and Army Commendation medals for valor as well as a Purple Heart Medal for a combat wound.
“It was a wild, crazy time,” Hutcherson said casually of his active military career. “As far as the Purple Heart goes, I ducked when I should have dodged.”
Now 39 and married with four children, Hutcherson became a Ranson police officer last April.
He initially hoped to become a military police officer but he was too young for the job when he first joined the Army as a 17-year-old.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he explained of law and order work.
So far as a police officer in Ranson, Hutcherson mostly recalls arresting a few drunk drivers, responding to some domestic fights and quieting some boisterous neighbors. But every public safety call and encounter is not the same; each involves different people in different situations, he said.
One dispute, however, led to a memorable shooting, he said. An angry tenant fired a shotgun at a landlord during an argument. Nobody was injured, but the landlord’s truck was damaged in the shotgun blast.
“He seemed more upset that his truck got shot than the guy tried to kill him,” Hutcherson recalled.
In a concern that’s becoming more common, Hutcherson has handled a few investigations where scammers have tried to extort money from residents by threatening them over texts and voice messages over mobile phones. The criminal callers typically disguise their true telephone numbers with software over the internet, but some messages have been traced to locations outside the United States, he said.
TV cop and crime shows don’t match the reality of everyday policing, Hutcherson offered. Solving crimes often requires extensive work from scant evidence. Crime scene fingerprints aren’t always tidy to obtain or identify, for example. Tracking phone calls isn’t easy or automatic either.
“The biggest misconception is they see these crime shows and crimes are solved basically in 30 minutes to an hour,” he said.
Dispelling another common misconception he has encountered, Hutcherson said patrol officers, at least those for Ranson, aren’t expected to stay busy generating lots of traffic tickets. “It’s more about serving the community,” he explained, “and I like that aspect of the job.”
Officer Joshua Portner, 33, had a successful career in construction.
He started his own business in Harpers Ferry last year that was doing well despite headwinds from the coronavirus outbreak.
But after a while, he became restless for another vocation, he explained. “I just had a yearning to do something more meaningful,” he said. “Pretty much my whole life I’ve always had an interest in law enforcement and wanted to do it.
“There was still something there, something more I wanted, and I think I found it here.”
Portner will undergo training at the police academy in the spring.
He grew up in Frederick County, Maryland. He’s an outdoors person, he said, who enjoys riding horses. He also plays the guitar for fun.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of challenges,” he said of his new policing venture. “My only expectation is to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Just find a way to make a positive impact in people’s lives depending on the situation you might run into.”
Officer Arlyn Black grew up helping out his father’s pest control business in Loudoun County, and he was in line to eventually take over the small family venture. He had already assumed full responsibility for its daily operations, sacrificing nights and weekends to keep the business running.
“When you operate a small business,” Black explained, “it’s seven days a week, 24 hours a day if need be.”
After facing eight years of unrelenting pressures and commitments from the business, Black wanted to take a different career path. He decided to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a police officer.
“I’m able to do my job and still have days to myself as well,” Black said of his new job as a Ranson police officer. “But the days that I do work, it’s rewarding.”
Joining the police force a year ago last January, Black, 28, said he’s had a variety of new career experiences. He’s engaged in a few heart-pumping foot chases and car chases. He’s also intervened in some domestic disputes.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Sometimes going to jail is not the answer. Sometimes individuals need counseling.”
“We’re exposed to the bad side of things, but it’s rewarding for me because you get to engage with an individual and see them at their worst and there’s still light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. “You can still make it a positive experience.”
Black said he was surprised to learn how prevalent drug use and abuse is throughout Jefferson County. Whether involving alcohol or narcotics, drugs stand out as the biggest public safety issue, he said. Drugs and addiction motivate most crimes and 911 calls, from thefts and burglaries to major family quarrels, he said.
The memory of a woman who overdosed on drugs in her car parked next to a public park near his home still stands out as a defining incident for him, which occurred even before he became a police officer.
“Being an officer, if I can impact the drugs in this area,” he said, “that’s something that I want to be a part of.”
Nevertheless, all things considered so far in his short policing career, Black said his most enjoyable experience was riding a fire truck in uniform during this year’s Christmas parade through Ranson and Charles Town. “Just seeing the reaction from the kids, it’s not necessarily what police work is about,” he said. “For me, that’s something that sticks out in my mind because I’ve never had an opportunity to do that before.”
Last fall, Black went through the state police academy’s demanding training, the first two weeks of which involved rigorous physical exercises during 23-hour days.
Intensive coursework on criminal law and police tactics were also part of the training.
“After you’re done, the sense of accomplishment was unreal,” he recalled. “It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done my entire life, but I’m so glad that I did it.
“I feel like I’ve earned the spot to be a certified officer in West Virginia and to be able to work on my own.”