Keeping Christmas safe: Law officers, firefighters take holiday work in stride

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – While Tupelo and Lee County children were opening their presents, watched by parents tired from helping Santa on Christmas morning, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, firefighters and dispatchers were hard at work.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Tutor started what he estimates is his eighth or ninth Christmas on duty with paperwork from a traffic accident turned in by one of four deputies he supervised Christmas day.
“We did Christmas last weekend,” he said. “I usually look to see what days my shift is working in November so I know if I need to make different Christmas plans with my parents.”
Tutor said he missed his nephew and niece opening their presents from Santa on Christmas morning.
He spend a good chunk of the morning patrolling the northeast quadrant of Lee County, which was quiet and peaceful.
“It will probably be pretty quiet today,” he said while waving at a kid playing with his new remote control helicopter. “I just hope the weather isn’t too bad tonight. You never know though, now that I’ve said the Q-word (quiet) it might change.”
Tutor said one benefit of working Christmas is knowing where you’ll be instead of having to be three places at once. If different family members aren’t fighting over who visits on Christmas Day, he said he can spend some time around Christmas with everyone.
Corey Shouse spent his first Christmas as a firefighter smoking a hog behind Tupelo Fire Station 1.
“I do most of the cooking because everyone else isn’t quite as good,” Shouse bragged. Tupelo Fire Sgt. Jerry Pannell gave Shouse a sharp smirk: “And it looks like you may be sweeping the parking lot, too.”
Shouse’s shift started at 6 a.m. but he came in at 5:35.
“What some of the guys did this morning is come in here so the guys who worked yesterday and were supposed to get off at six this morning could go home early and be there when their kids woke up and get Christmas started for their families,” said Pannell, who was also working on what he calls the “Lucky A-Shift.” The A-Shift, he said, gets Christmas two years in a row because of leap year.
Shouse said he doesn’t mind working because he loves the job and the shift is like a family.
Pannell said working with your second family makes it a little easier not being home on Christmas.
Firefighter Levi Tutor was working his second Christmas.
“Normally on Christmas you have people out in the community that will bring you food and all kinds of goodies,” he said. “You get to hang out and cook with the guys on the smoker. Last year it was slow and this year it’s been quiet all day so far.”
Tupelo Police Lt. Brian Brown said besides a few traffic accidents and a Christmas Eve domestic assault, the police department had a quiet Christmas too.
“You work in the department and on a shift with guys you never see so we’ve gotten to have a little breather and catch up today,” Brown said.
He has been working at the department for 17 years and caught his first Christmas Day shift this year. He said some of the officers on his shift, Charlie Shift, volunteered to come in and let other officers take time with their wives and children.
Brown’s wife is also an officer with the Tupelo Police Department and working the Christmas night shift. He said they will only get to see each other in passing today but were able to have Christmas festivities this weekend.
Everyone working said it’s tough to be away from family on Christmas Day but rewarding to keep people safe.
“You want to be with your family but if everyone was with their family, you leave the county unprotected,” Tutor said.
“Wrecks still happen and people still break the law.”
jb.clark@journalinc.com