‘A cop’s cop’ calls it a ca­reer

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - Dar­ryl Welch dwelch@cov­news.com

There’s an old proverb that reads “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment Capt. Craig Tread­well checks out at the end of his tour Wed­nes­day, his nearly 37-year ca­reer of ser­vice to his city and county may very well epit­o­mize that proverb.

Sit­ting in his of­fice sur­rounded by the boxes he’s us­ing to pack up me­men­toes of his ca­reer, the New­ton County na­tive said he can’t re­mem­ber want­ing to do any­thing else. “All I ever wanted to be is some­thing in pub­lic safety,” he said. Af­ter start­ing at age 18 in 1981 as a jailer and ra­dio op­er­a­tor with the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, Tread­well was pro­moted to road deputy af­ter about four months.

Then, in Fe­bru­ary 1982, dur­ing his first month on the road, he was shot in the leg dur­ing a gun­fight with a cou­ple of wanted men from South Carolina in a stolen truck on High­way 81 north of Ox­ford. While he said it wasn’t his scari­est mo­ment on the job, it was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence he would carry with him his en­tire ca­reer. It also con­firmed in his mind his ca­reer choice. “I’ve been way more scared since then,” he said. “But that was one of the bet­ter learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I ever had. I re­al­ized right then that this is a dan­ger­ous job; you’ve got to be care­ful. You can’t take any­thing for granted. I think it prob­a­bly saved my life dozens of times since then.

“My mom asked me at the hos­pi­tal that day, ‘Are you go­ing to quit now? Are you go­ing to find an­other job?’ “I said, ‘No, ma’am. I ac­tu­ally want to do it more, now.’” Af­ter the shoot­ing, Tread­well said he de­cided to make law en­force­ment his ca­reer and started to look at other agen­cies.

“I started look­ing at Cov­ing­ton po­lice. I had to make a hard de­ci­sion. It’s the hard­est de­ci­sion I ever made in my life — leav­ing the sher­iff’s de­part­ment and com­ing here — be­cause I had a re­ally good job at the sher­iff’s de­part­ment.”

Tread­well joined CPD in Au­gust 1982, work­ing on the evening watch. He said he’s never looked back.

Af­ter work­ing in pa­trol for three years, he ap­plied for pro­mo­tion to lieu­tenant in 1985.

“I ac­tu­ally got pro­moted to lieu­tenant in 1985. I had only been here three years,” he said. “I was a night shift lieu­tenant at 22.

“My first cap­tain was Billy Joe Hewell. He had just been pro­moted to cap­tain and I just got pro­moted to lieu­tenant and I don’t think I could have worked for a bet­ter su­per­vi­sor or leader. He is a peo­ple per­son and he taught me a lot about work­ing with peo­ple and deal­ing with peo­ple. Treat­ing peo­ple the way you want to be treated. It’s gone a long way.”

In 1988, Tread­well trans­ferred to nar­cotics. He worked there from 1988 un­til the early part of 1990. In 1990, CPD and the sher­iffs in the area got to­gether and formed the multi-agency East Metro Drug En­force­ment Team.

Tread­well was one of the first agents as­signed to the team and served un­til 1993 when he went to the FBI Academy for the first three months that year.

Af­ter the Academy, he re­turned to CPD to work in the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions Divi­sion. He worked there from April 1993 through 1998. Along the way, he en­rolled in Mercer Univer­sity and earned his bach­e­lor’s de­gree. Chief Stacy Cot­ton pro­moted him to cap­tain in 1998.

Af­ter mak­ing cap­tain, Tread­well re­turned to the East Metro Team as com­man­der un­til 2004. Af­ter re­turn­ing to CPD, he com­manded at dif­fer­ent times CID and the Pa­trol Divi­sion. Most re­cently, he has com­manded the de­part­ment’s Sup­port Ser­vices Divi­sion.

“I’ve ac­tu­ally had the com­mand of ev­ery divi­sion in the po­lice de­part­ment,” he said.

For the last five years, he has also served as the de­part­ment’s pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, work­ing with me­dia out­lets, in­clud­ing The Cov­ing­ton News, to get in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic.

Late in our con­ver­sa­tion, Tread­well ad­mit­ted he was un­com­fort­able talk­ing about his ca­reer. The ad­mis­sion is tes­ta­ment to his lead­er­ship and at­ti­tude to­ward the job he gave his life to.

“It’s been a re­ally good ca­reer here,” he said. “But I don’t like talk­ing a whole lot about ‘I.’ I’m re­ally un­com­fort­able talk­ing about ‘my’ ca­reer be­cause it’s a lot of ‘I’s.

“Most of my ca­reer has been about ‘we’ — we as a de­part- ment, we as a shift when I was a pa­trol lieu­tenant, we as a divi­sion when I was a divi­sion com­man­der, or in the drug unit. We, when I was a SWAT team com­man­der. It’s been a lot of work­ing with good peo­ple, that’s what’s made me suc­cess­ful.”

Tread­well also praised the lead­er­ship of com­man­ders he has worked for.

“Chief (Bob) Moody was my first chief, and I learned so much from him. And the cap­tains I had - Cap­tain (Bar­ney) Anglin, who hired me, Cap­tain Hewell, who re­ally gave me a good foun­da­tion as far as be­ing a su­per­vi­sor and a good leader. Peo­ple like Joe Ni­chols, who I worked for at the sher­iff’s de­part­ment, and Charlie Smith and Steve Gun­nells that were my good friends and men­tors com­ing up through my early years.

“I’ve been very for­tu­nate and blessed to have those peo­ple to keep me pointed in the right di­rec­tion.

“Chief Cot­ton has been a good friend and a good chief. I’ve been a cap­tain un­der his de­part­ment for al­most 20 years here.”

When asked what he would miss most, Tread­well gave an ex­pected an­swer.

“What I’m go­ing to miss the most is the ‘we,’” he said. “Just work­ing day in and day out with these peo­ple to get the job done.”

When asked what he would miss least, he strug­gled for an an­swer.

“Prob­a­bly the long hours and just not be­ing enough of us to go around,” he said. “It’ll be nice be­ing able to de­cide what my sched­ule will be.”

To­ward the end of our talk, Tread­well talked about the com­mu­nity.

“It’s changed a lot, but all in all, I think we’ve got a very good com­mu­nity and I think the com­mu­nity is be­hind this Po­lice De­part­ment,” he said. ”The Po­lice De­part­ment has been a big part of this com­mu­nity over the years. I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it when I’ve been out there work­ing it.

“When peo­ple call for you by name when they call the Po­lice De­part­ment, they want to talk to you, be­cause they feel like you’re the per­son that’s go­ing to get some­thing done for them. You can go out in their com­mu­nity and find what their is­sues are and go and help them with it.

“I don’t know of any­thing that speaks any higher for a de­part­ment than that.”

Dar­ryl Welch | The Cov­ing­ton News

Craig Tread­well re­tires from the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment af­ter 35 years.

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