Spending time with children is one of the brightest parts of Lt. Jake Reed’s job at the Berea Police Department. “They want to see your car and think everything you do is neat,” he said.
Childhood games of cops and robbers were a mere glimpse into Jake Reed’s future.
The Berea Police lieutenant’s career choice was likely no surprise to his family, who spent years shuttling him to and from Law Enforcement Explorers meetings, a program hosted through Boy Scouts at police agencies. According to Reed, the program, designed for ages 14 to 20, allows students to act as “junior police officers” by going on ride alongs, directing traffic and more.
“A lot of kids say they want to become police officers while they’re young, but the (Law Enforcement Explorers) really cemented my interest in the field,” Reed said.
Through the program, Reed was able to work with a variety of officers and children, while learning about policing, taking career-related field trips and working at D.A.R.E. camps.
Along the way, Reed said he was particularly inspired by two men, Bill Eckler, an officer who served as both a D.A.R.E. and Explorers instructor, and Ray Brandenburg, former Berea Chief of Police.
Both have since retired, but the young officer still remembers how friendly and supportive the men were with the children they were teaching.
“I really learned a lot from them,” he said, noting he has taken a bit of their teachings and carried them into his policing.
Looking to make his way into law enforcement, Reed applied and was hired as a dispatcher at age 19. A year and a half later, he joined the thin blue line as a police officer for his hometown Berea.
His first day on the job was “pretty nerve-wrecking,” the officer said. After being in the police academy, Reed was on the streets putting his education to work.
“You learn all these things, then you’re out there trying to remember everything. There is a lot that goes into the job. It’s an exciting mixture,” he said.
Reed spent eight years as a patrol officer, and then in 2012, he was promoted to sergeant and became the department’s public information officer. Reed was promoted again in 2016 to lieutenant.
With each new task, Reed has risen to the challenge.
“We aren’t a huge department, but we aren’t that small either,” he said. “So everyone wears several hats. As you get promoted, you take on more responsibility. It can be challenging, but I enjoy it.”
For Reed, this means that while he is the public information officer talking to the media and the community, he also patrols.
Life as an officer might be considered heroic or thrilling, but Reed said there certainly are hard days, such as working fatal collisions or any other tragic incident.
“Those days can be difficult to deal with. But we have a job to do, so we take care of what we’re supposed to take care of,” Reed explained.
However, the bad doesn’t detract from the good.
Reed remembers, specifically when he was on dayshift, being able to speak at daycares and schools. Children, he said, are always happy to see you, even if other people aren’t.
“They want to see your car and think everything you do is neat,” he said with a smile in his voice.
Reed noted the most challenging part of policing is the retention within agencies, and getting good quality candidates to staff departments. However, Reed said he loves his job, specifically interacting with the public and never having the same day twice.
“Most people think Berea is a small town, and that not a lot goes on. Most don’t realize how busy we stay most of the time in Madison County as a whole, or what we deal with. (Some) people still think it’s the same Berea it was in the 1960s or 1970s, but in reality, it’s changed quite a bit.”
When it’s all said and done, and Reed is able to hang up his retirement cap, he said he hopes the department and community will remember him as courteous and professional, as someone who cared.
“I think it comes out in how you deal with people, and the work that you do,” he said, noting specifically a desire for children to feel comfortable approaching police, whether it’s himself or another officer. “We always tell kids and parents, we want them to understand we are here to help them. Some kids are nervous when they see us. That’s why some of us carry stuffed animals in the trunks of our cars and hand then out. We are here. If they ever need anything, they can come up to us.”
Along with being an officer, Reed is also a student. Currently, Reed is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in police studies at Eastern Kentucky University.
And if you’re ever in need of a music or video game suggestion, Reed just might have one. When he isn’t on duty, Reed said he enjoys concerts of various genres and spending time on his Playstation.