‘Whit’ retires from Georgiana PD

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2002

After 40-plus years, Georgiana Police Department is saying goodbye to an old friend and the assistant chief of the department, Capt. James Whittington. The most senior man on the department time-wise, ‘Whit’ as he is known by most people has dedicated his life to serving the City of Georgiana, and according to Chief James Blackmon, has been there through the good times and the bad.

&uot;There have been some good times, but there have also been bad,&uot; Blackmon said. &uot;There were some times when it was so bad that Whit had to use his personal car for police patrol.&uot;

&uot;There were very hard financial times for the department,&uot; said Whittington. &uot;At times, Chief Malcolm Blackmon, James’ late father, had to beg for uniforms for the officers n then an officer received one uniform to last for a whole year.&uot;

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Whittington said he has had countless unique experiences, both exhilarating and emotional, and not always good.

&uot;The last big thing I have seen was a pursuit that I was involved in assisting on,&uot; he said. &uot;A theft suspect was being pursued from Greenville, and it wasn’t until we were in Conecuh County that we got it stopped.&uot;

Whittington said vehicles were at a premium in the early years of his career, and sometimes officers had to &uot;hot seat,&uot; a car, which meant one officer got off shift and out of a car, while his relief jumped in and took off for his patrol.

&uot;I remember the first patrol car that we had with air conditioning,&uot; Whittington said. &uot;It was a 1970 Chevrolet, with a 454 engine n man would it go.&uot;

Whittington has many times received recognition for exemplary service during his career.

&uot;Over the span of Whit’s career, he has received numerous letters of thanks, and awards of commendation for going above and beyond the call of duty n especially when helping people who were stranded, broken down, or involved in a motor vehicle accident,&uot; Blackmon said.

&uot;I have always enjoyed my job working for the City of Georgiana,&uot; Whittington said. &uot;I have enjoyed working for both Chief James Blackmon, and his father before him, Chief Malcolm Blackmon. We worked through and survived all of the racial problems of the 60s and 70s, and always went back home to our families after the shift was through.

&uot;I have worked with really fine officers over the years, and am leaving the City in the hands of some really fine officers now,&uot; Whittington said.

&uot;Whit has always said to other officers that if you treat people how you would want to be treated, it was always better n for them and for yourself, too,&uot; Blackmon said.

Regarding the improvements made in law enforcement over the years, Whittington said although some were hard to get used to, many were good.

&uot;I think it was a good idea when law enforcement made the move from the revolver to the semi-automatic service weapon,&uot; he said. &uot;There was much more ease of use, and it was safer, not to mention there was more ammunition.&uot;

Whittington said there was one thing in particular that he took more pride in than any other.

&uot;In more than 40 years, I have never had to shoot anyone, or shoot at anyone,&uot; he said. &uot;The only time my weapons have been fired were on the range.&uot;

&uot;Unfortunately, that’s not something every officer can say,&uot; Blackmon said.

Whit also said there was one more improvement to officer safety he just never accepted.

&uot;In all my years, I have never worn a bullet-proof vest,&uot; he said. &uot;I have always felt that if it was my time to go, then I was prepared to go.&uot;

&uot;Police officers like Whit have to make sacrifices every day of their lives,&uot; said Blackmon. &uot;They sacrifice at home, with their families, and financially n they do it because of a genuine love of service for their neighbor.&uot;

Whittington said that part of the reason that he enjoyed his service so much was due to the people he worked for.

&uot;My chief officers have always stood by me, and allowed me to do my job in a proper manner,&uot; Whittington said.

&uot;And one step further than that n the mayors and councilmembers of Georgiana have never interfered with the operation of the police department for political agendas,&uot; Blackmon said. &uot;They have always supported us, and allowed us to do our job equally for all.&uot;

Whittington said there is still a family tradition of law enforcement for him though.

&uot;My son-in-law, Jason Burch, is a state trooper assigned in Butler County,&uot; he said. &uot;He is a K-9 trooper unit, with a dog for a partner.&uot;

To other officers, Whittington offers sound advice.

&uot;Be careful, gain the trust of the people you work for and with, and also the trust of the community,&uot; he said. &uot;And make sure that you are working for a good chief.&uot;

Whittington said he plans to relax now, and is expecting his 67th birthday in October.

&uot;I am just gonna try to take it easy, but I’ve got to learn how first,&uot; he said with a smile and a laugh.

His wife Shirley said she is sure that he will manage.

Capt. James Whittington was honored in a reception on Thursday in the Georgiana City Hall, and presented plaques and certifications of appreciation for his years of service from Mayor Lynn Watson on behalf of the City, Chief Blackmon on behalf of the Police Department, and also from Capt. Malvin Blackmon on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police.