Serving’s only natural for Pike County’s Cope

Published 11:12 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

Willie Cope never planned on working in law enforcement.

But, it’s a decision the Pike County Sheriff’s deputy hasn’t ever second-guessed.

Starting off as a part-time jailer for the department, Cope spent four years before he became an officer working for the county.

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What led him to his decision to join the front line of fighting crime every day is something that was simply a part of who he is.

“I just wanted to be part of the community and help the community,” Cope said.

And so, with a little encouragement from Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas, Cope found himself at the police academy.

That was 12 years ago — now, Cope is still serving strong as lieutenant of the night patrol.

It was something Thomas saw in Cope — his family, his connections in the community, his level-headedness, his compassion — that he said led him to nudge the jailer to join the department.

“I encouraged him to get in law enforcement because I saw how he dealt with families in jail, how he had compassion for them and understanding,” Thomas said.

In that compassionate service, Cope said he has found great rewards.

“The most rewarding is when you get a case or a problem people call you about, and you get that problem solved,” Cope said. “You do something for people, and they feel a little more safe and trust you.”

Trust is something Thomas said Cope has more than earned with the Pike County community.

“If something’s going on in the community, he’s just about going to know somebody who knows something,” Thomas said. “When we had the capital murder case about a year ago, he had no less than 15 to 20 phone calls where people were giving him information to spread.

“The information he gained through those phone calls helped solve that case, and I can just go through cases time and time again. You’ve got to have people that trust you to get that information.”

While Cope never regrets his decision to join the sheriff’s department, it hasn’t always led him down an easy path.

“It’s difficult when somebody takes something, and you can’t find who did it. It worries you to death,” Cope said. “I can’t sleep. I can’t rest until I find out who it is and the people get their property back.”

Theft or property was just one example. Cope has also faced the most difficult of battles — fighting for his life.

“You’re going to be nervous. You’re going to fear a little, but you know you’ve got to maintain.”

Risking his life is something that is not new to Cope. A retired member of the Air Force and Army, it’s more like something Cope has done his whole life.

And, it’s something Cope said he gladly does because, well, that’s just who he is.

“It’s the satisfaction of serving people. It makes them happy, and people trust in you.”