More than four weeks ago, Pinellas County, FL Police Academy #177’s Cadet Kelly Rothwell disappeared after telling a friend she was headed home to break up with her boyfriend. She was not seen again.
Despite repeated requests, the boyfriend refused to be interviewed by Pinellas County, FL sheriff’s detectives. The boyfriend left the state for New York. A search warrant was executed on their Florida residence and the boyfriend consented to a search of his car. There are no official suspects in Rothwell’s disappearance.
The realities of law enforcement had come early to Class #177: this is not a kind profession. Stay in it for any period of time and you will witness humanity at its lowest.
In my academy class, one of the speakers was a sheriff’s deputy who was recovering from gunshot wounds inflicted by a vagrant on a low priority contact. The deputy arrived at our podium supported by a cane. It opened the eyes of our recruits. He was so much like the rest of us…
Reality is what you make of it. I think Class #177 will go into law enforcement with a different perspective than most. They lost a class leader, a classmate, and a friend. I think they will be more wary and less certain of outcomes. Living with adversity reveals its possibilities.
Rothwell had ridden with my department’s officers. She had a job interview scheduled for two days after she was reported missing. Rothwell did not arrive for her appointment. That is the reality.
Following Class #177’s graduation ceremony, a candlelight vigil was held for Rothwell. Tears were shed and resolve was gained.
It is bittersweet, but I think the recruits in this class will start their careers jaded, unlike those who would have to labor for it. I am saddened by their loss, but optimistic for their ability to overcome this adversity.
Randall is a twenty-three year veteran officer of a mid-size Florida police department. He served as a SWAT team officer for 21 years, to include 12 years as a team leader. His other duties included Police K9 handler, FTO, and Detective. Currently serving as a Midnight Shift Sergeant, he is also his department’s SWAT Coordinator.
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