Living a double life

Even though he’s not quite on the same playing field as the double-life-living Clark Kent, Eric Gibens isn’t far off – sort of.
Kent, whose alter ego was the crime fighting phenom Superman, worked an ordinary job until his super counterpart was needed.
As a computer specialist, Gibens also works a normal day job. But when duty calls, his crime fighting counterpart takes over.

For the past 17 years, the owner of Red Magnet, Inc. and Gibens Creative Group has served as a reserve police officer for the Tupelo Police Department. It’s a job he takes just as seriously as the one that pays him.
Gibens, 37, started the IT support and service company in 1999 and makes a pretty good living doing it. But even though he loves working with computer systems, his love for Tupelo and law enforcement are just as strong. After going on a ride-along with former Tupelo Police Chief Ed Crider when he was in high school, Gibens said he knew he wanted to be a part of law enforcement in some form or fashion.
“Law enforcement was an interest of mine at an early age,” said Gibens. “When I went on that ride-along, I knew that day my interest in police work would not dissipate. I was hooked from that day forward.”
He joined the Police Explorer Scout program through the Boy Scouts of America in 1990. The reserve program was started shortly after.
While attending the University of Mississippi, Gibens chose a different career path other than law enforcement but said the reserve program gave him the opportunity to do both. He completed reserve basic training in 1993.
“I’m glad I have the opportunity to do two things that I enjoy doing,” said Gibens. “I’ve never been a good bystander, so I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines; I had to do something to help. Tupelo is my hometown and being a reserve is my way to put in more than what I take out.”

Community service
Despite the long days and nights of work for the department, Gibens and the other reserves don’t receive pay for the work they do. What he does get is a sense of pride that he’s helped the community.
“There are numerous aspects of police work I enjoy,” said Gibens. “First would be the team environment of problem solving. When a specific problem or task is identified, everyone works together to solve that issue. Everyone is focused on a common goal. Another advantage of being an additional resource for the police department is it allows you to work with almost every division in the department. I have been able to participate in a variety of law enforcement roles and that has benefited the city and the department as a whole.”
In addition to patrol work, the Reserve Division covers most events held in the city. As a result, Gibens said they have the opportunity to talk with the people in the community in a different setting than other officers in the department.
“When called to an incident, an officer is typically not afforded the time we get to simply have a conversation with the citizens,” he said. “I enjoy the public relations portion of my work. Let’s face it, no one enjoys seeing blue lights in their rearview mirror, but during a foot race or a parade, people will open up, ask questions and let you know about problems they are having in their neighborhood. We get a lot of requests for photographs with our out-of-town guests during the Elvis Festival.”
Although he loves his job as a reserve, Gibens said he doesn’t like to answer calls where children are involved. He said the family support he receives really helps him.
No matter what a person decides to do in life, Gibens said he’d recommend getting involved with the reserve program.
“Law enforcement is not for everyone, but if you have an interest in making it a career, the Reserve Division is a great entry point,” he said. “The training you receive is valuable in both law enforcement and private sectors.
“No matter your profession, police work will improve your communication skills improving your ability to work with difficult people. It will improve your risk management and decision-making skills and give you the confidence to stand behind those decisions. I wouldn’t trade either of my jobs for anything.”

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal