In the last few years, the public has come to better appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made by law enforcement officers -- those who serve in small towns, large cities and rural areas across the country. That makes it difficult for everyone when an officer steps outside the bounds of acceptable conduct, as former Kershaw County Deputy Oddie Tribble did in beating a handcuffed prisoner in August of 2010. Tribble was sentenced earlier this week to serve more than five years in prison for the incident.
Dealing with criminals and hooligans isn’t an easy job. Testimony in Tribble’s trial indicated that the man he beat, Charles Shelley, had cursed at the deputy and had threatened his family while riding in a van to the Kershaw County Detention Center. But experts testified that such behavior was common among suspects and didn’t justify the beating. We can sympathize with officers who must endure a near-endless litany of rants and profanities as they deal with locking up drunks and violent criminals who aren’t happy about heading to jail. It’s a job most of us wouldn’t even consider doing.
Tribble also had people testifying in his behalf, including former Sheriff Steve McCaskill and Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who talked about the excellent job the deputy had done in the past. However, testimony also showed this wasn’t Tribble’s first brush with trouble, as he was accused in 2008 of beating a drunk man who was also handcuffed. That case was never prosecuted. In the latest incident, the blows inflicted by Tribble left Shelley with a broken leg.
Ultimately, the public must have assurance that law enforcement officers are trained well enough and have the proper self-control to refrain from beatings such as the one that occurred last August. Though we can sympathize with the frustration that Tribble certainly must have felt, there are legions of other officers who go through the same gauntlet and handle themselves properly. Tribble’s five-plus-year sentence is indeed formidable but in the end will help reassure John Q. Citizen that officers must be held accountable to act in the best interests of everyone involved.