Officer John Maxwell of the Brentwood Police Department achieved what only eight members of the department had achieved before him when he reached 30 years on the job Thursday, Feb. 16.
For much of his 30 years as a Brentwood police officer, Maxwell has been a part of the department’s Directed Enforcement Team, which deals with issues related to traffic in the city. Specifically, he’s renowned for his expertise at crash investigations. His current title is Senior Traffic Crash Investigator.
“A long title for the old guy in the unit,” Maxwell jokes.
As a token of appreciation, at a departmental meeting a few days ago, Chief Jeff Hughes presented Maxwell with what has become the department’s customary gift for those elite officers who reach the 30-year milestone: a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle. The rifle is specially engraved with Maxwell’s badge and badge number.
Maxwell said he suspected something was up when a fellow officer contacted him to make extra sure he would be at the meeting. Maxwell knew his 30th anniversary was approaching, and he had seen officers before him get their rifles, but still, when Chief Hughes handed him his rifle, it was a moment to treasure.
“It’s a pretty nice accomplishment,” Maxwell said. “The nice thing is it comes from the department, but it doesn’t come from the department. The funds [to buy the rifle] come from donations from members of the department, which makes it more special than other awards. This one comes from my coworkers. They paid for it out of their pockets.”
Maxwell travels around the country to take at least two or three classes a year related to crash investigation. He enjoys his work.
“Crash investigation’s always been fun,” he says. “To me it’s fun. All the evidence is there, you’ve just got to figure it out.”
To go along with the pleasure Maxwell gets from the investigative process, there’s the reward of a job well done and justice served that goes along with his work.
He recalls an incident in a few years back where a serious crash at the intersection of Murray Lane and Franklin Road left a woman paralyzed.
“When that crash occurred, it was nice to be able to come and take it from the crash scene and see it through the courts,” he says. “The person who caused it ended up serving time in prison.”
Like anything, the job has not been without its challenges. New technologies and the changing nature of the city have been hard at times to keep up with.
“It’s ever-changing because cars change,” Maxwell says of his work. “Our big thing used to be skid marks all the time. ABS (anti-lock braking system) has limited skid marks now. They still leave marks but you have to know what you’re looking for. The field changes continuously and it requires continual training.”
Then there’s the obvious issue of traffic congestion in the city. When Maxwell left the Berry Hill Police Department to join the Brentwood Police Department in 1987, Brentwood was a very different place. Back then Franklin Road was mostly just a two-lane road, Maxwell remembers, and the department only had two officers working a shift at a time. Nowadays, Franklin Road gets backed up with double the lanes, and the department requires a minimum of five officers and a supervisor to be out on patrol at all times, he says.
More cars, of course, means more crashes. The city averages around 1,400 to 1,500 a year now, Maxwell says. Back in 2005, that number was under 1,000.
“One of our big goals is to reduce crashes every year but unfortunately we’re not making that goal,” Maxwell says. “Some of that is due to staffing and some of that is due to the sheer volume of people who come through here every day.”
Thankfully, the city has not had a fatal crash in nearly four years. The Directed Enforcement Team is doing its best, through the targeting of speeding, cars following too closely and seatbelt violations, among other things at peak travel times, to keep that no-fatality streak alive.
Chief Hughes says Maxwell has made a significant contribution to the department through his dedication over the past several decades.
“He’s been a tremendous asset to the Brentwood Police Department with his service over these 30 years,” Hughes says. “I’m just proud to have been able to work beside him over that 30 years, and I’m proud to be able to call him a friend and a coworker.”
As for Maxwell, he plans to keep at work a bit longer, at least until he reaches 55 and unlocks his full benefits package.
“375 days. Not that I’m counting,” he says.
Looking back, he’s got no complaints at how his career has turned out. He worked in two other police departments besides Brentwood early on, so he says he doesn’t have any of that grass-is-always-greener mentality that can get to some people. He found a department and a city he liked, and he stuck with it. As simple as that.
“Overall, in law enforcement you probably don’t get very much better,” he says. “The conditions we work under are pretty good. That comes from the administration here, from the city and our commissioners, and from the citizens. The support we get from the citizens is just unreal.”
He mentioned the other day at Chik-fil-A how an elderly woman came up to him wanting to give him a $10 gift card just to say thank you for his service.
“It’s stuff like that that makes Brentwood what it is,” he says.