IN A SEA of students, a beacon light anchors an ever-changing tide of teenage lives. Help is on the streets too. At night and in the early morning hours, another light is prepared to lend itself whenever called upon for assistance at accident scenes, in domestic crises, and other situations needing intervention. Fred and Tracey Harvey share a mission to strengthen and protect the people of Shelbyville and Bedford County.
She was hired by the Shelbyville Police Department in 1994, watching for her dream position’s door to open. Before it did, friend and fellow officer Carol Jean had her eye on a matter of the heart – Fred and Tracey’s hearts, more specifically. Before she could complete her matchmaking, the two had already quietly begun dating. Jean was clearly onto something though. The couple married in 1997 and have been doing life together since.
And she’s seeing that success in the second generation and in the third on the horizon. Tracey was Tennessee’s SRO Officer of the Year in 2010-2011 and recipient of the Tennessee School Counselors Association’s Counselor Advocate in 2015. She has been with CHS since moving to the sheriff’s department in 2001, approaching her 23rd year.
She is a fixture in the high school and the lives and memories of its staff and students.
She said, “I’ve been very fortunate to watch these kids walk that graduation line, then see them succeed in the world. And lots of kids that came through school are coming back as teachers. It’s awesome to see the ripple effect from when they’re little to the time they graduate and what they do in life.”
She’s a presence – someone that the staff and students know they can count on to cheer them on, lead and guide them, and, when necessary, protect them.
“One of the things they told us at the academy is that it’s hard to be a police in your hometown. And that’s a fact. Kids are still kids, and they’re going to mess up, and they’re going to make mistakes. I don’t want to arrest them; that’s the least favorite part of my job. I’d much rather be in the halls laughing, cutting up with them, and watching them at ballgames. When I have to arrest one, it breaks my heart,” Tracey said.
Fred became an officer in 1983 in his hometown of Jamestown and made it to Shelbyville in 1992. Of the places and assignments in between, he laughingly calls himself a gypsy policeman.
”I’ve had two civilian jobs in my life, and everything else I’ve ever done has been public service or military. I liked the excitement when I was younger, but I’m not that way anymore. The cuffs I carry are older than some of the cops on the shift I just came off.”
This street patrol lieutenant has seen his fair share of tragedy and acquired an appreciation for the slow, quiet nights often despised by younger officers.
“If we get a call, something bad is happening to someone. We don’t want that. We want a night when we’re not busy,” Fred said. He said of the hard things law enforcement and emergency personnel witness, “You don’t unsee those things; you get inoculated to it. But still, they’ve all got a mama and daddy, brothers and sisters, and you have to think of them.”
Fred, a man of fewer words, received national recognition with the 2017 Top Cop Honorable Mention by the National Association of Police Organizations, the 2007 NRA Distinguished Auto Award, and the 2012 NRA Distinguished Revolver Award in police pistol competition shooting.
“We have really good officers; good supervision. I remember when cops were well-liked. We still are here; Bedford County is great. But I wish we could go back to the united times like 9/11 when everyone came together,” Fred said.
Fred and Tracey come home to a safe haven at the end of their shifts. Although their jobs and work hours are different, their experiences bind them, enabling a common perspective of the blessings and curses of their work. And with what they see on the job, that support is another unique benefit of their marriage.
Tracey said, “He can come home and say, ‘I had to work this kind of call,’ and I can relate to him and understand. And when I talk about the stressful things with the kids, it helps. I think it helps us to be able to come home and debrief with each other, then we move on. And when people don’t have that, it’s hard for the spouse.”
“We’re just blessed. I think God brought us together for that reason and helped us along the way. We’ve been married for 25 years. He’s been one of my biggest supporters, and I couldn’t do what I do without him,” she said.
“I’m thankful God led me here. I appreciate my employer and the friendships and special relationships I’ve built at CHS. They mean the world to me. Dr. Robert Ralson, Dr. Keith Williams, and I have been together since the beginning of my time as an SRO. I pray I’ve made a difference every day I’ve been there and hope God’s allowed me to be someone’s light, because they’ve been there for me.” GN