Everyday Heroes - February 2017
Taylorsville Police Sgt. Todd Tinsley
A Spencer County native, Todd Tinsley decided in high school he wanted to go into law enforcement. In 2011 when the sheriff’s office announced it was hiring local individuals with little-to-no experience, Tinsley knew the door had opened. After four years of service, Tinsley made the switch to the Taylorsville Police Department, joining a new chief and assistant chief. He said he was excited about the direction the department was taking and wanted to be part of it. Just two days after joining Taylorsville, his first daughter was born, changing his perspective on life and policing. Tinsley is married and now has three young daughters, and feels serving in his hometown of Taylorsville is exactly where he’s meant to be.
I worked a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and it never sat well with me. I enjoy putting on a uniform that’s pressed and polished, looking professional, coming in and having contact with those individuals with whom I normally would not have contact.
We deal with the same negative stuff, most times. But there are occasions when I get to help a child on a domestic call or in a wreck, or put someone in jail that needs to be there. I like being able to push my community in the right direction. Not many people can say they have that opportunity every day. Even though it’s just Taylorsville, where I’ve spent my whole life, I honestly believe I’m where I’m supposed to be. I believe in God, and I feel God has me here for a reason.
I have a little bit of a temper – I used to get upset with people when they disrespected me. I worked with David Casey who is now retired from [the Kentucky Department of] Fish and Wildlife Resources, and he said, “You’ll be an old man real quick if you keep getting mad like you do.” Fast forward two to three years to when my daughter was born. The moment she was born something changed inside me. There’s nothing like loving a child – that love swelled up on the inside of me and changed everything about who I am and how I conduct myself.
Now, I catch myself thinking about people’s futures. I have hope in those people that they will get into a program and get help; that God will intervene and they’ll have a future. I think if my children ever got into trouble, I hope they will run into someone who cares like I try to care about people now.
One night, our former chief, Toby Lewis, was driving home and saw a reflector in the creek. He turned back and found a car on its side in the creek, with no idea how long it had been there. He called it in, and they dispatched me.
The creek was about 7 inches above my knees. The way the car was mangled and the girl inside was laying, her head was in the water. Toby was holding her up when I arrived, and he’d been in the water for a while. She was cut pretty badly – it was dark and you could see the blood. I took over holding her up in the water. I was afraid to pull her out, the way she was stuck.
She was 16 or 17 years old and was scared. She kept saying, ‘Please don’t leave me.’ I told her just to focus on me. This was in December or January and I was in there about 45 minutes, in my uniform with my belt completely submerged. I remember my arms shaking, being tired and being cold. But, I thought this is someone’s baby – if that was my child, I’d want someone to do the same. If that means me being covered in glass or in the water to calm her down, that’s what I signed up for.
I had a case where a guy was suicidal, about a year and a half ago. I found the guy and he ran a little ways up to a Mexican restaurant. He was looking to commit suicide by a cop. I was standing behind him in the parking lot and he told me he had a gun. I remember someone screaming and realized it was his wife and child upstairs. I thought what a bad situation this was going to be. We talked for what felt like two hours.
He said, ‘One of us is going to die.’ And I said, ‘I promise I’m going home to my family, but yours is only 10 feet away. Think about what you’re doing.’ He eventually threw down the gun. I didn’t arrest him, but instead sent him to the hospital because he needed help. He came back to the station one day, hugged me and said, ‘I had all intentions of dying that day, but I could tell by the way you talked and how passionate you were that you cared, and that’s the reason I’m alive today.’
We say we’re ‘the good guys,’ but if we’re hateful on a traffic stop or don’t want to be bothered while we’re eating, what message does that send? In a small town, it’s hard to eat. But those people or kids who want to talk to a police officer, that’s my job – I work for these people. It’s not all running and gunning. I may never know how I affected these people, but my influence may change their whole life. I may have a mediocre career, but that person may go on to do amazing things because of that interaction.
If I work 30 years in law enforcement and I die and go to the pearly gates and ask God if I helped one person and he says no, that would be a career and life I’d be ashamed of. But if he says I helped one person – that’s worth it. If I die tonight and I helped one person who went on to make a difference, then that’s a life well lived.