Its Own Professional Rewards
Gary Metts (D.B.A., Criminal Justice, 2012) always knew he would be a cop. “As a kid I loved to watch Hawaii Five-0 and run around the house pretending to be Detective Steve McGarrett,” he shares.
Gary Metts, (D.B.A., Criminal Justice, 2012)
Metts began his law enforcement career in the Air Force. “You had to be 21 to be a civilian cop, but in the Air Force it was possible to work in the military police at a younger age.”
During his Air Force service Metts became involved with K-9 training. “I completed Bomb Dog, Drug Dog and Patrol Dog School, and was assigned to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, training new four-legged recruits!”
His work with the K-9 group led to his most interesting job. “I was assigned to a Secret Service Presidential Advance Team that traveled to the locations that the president would be visiting in the future to develop safety plans,” shares Metts.
It was a challenging role that eventually took its toll. “I would be gone for weeks at a time. I wasn’t able to tell my wife where I was going or even how she could contact me. In the end, I had to make job changes that were better suited to my family,” notes Metts.
Metts would have stayed in the Air Force, but in 1991 the size of the Armed Forces was being reduced. He was unemployed for less than 24 hours. “I left the Air Force at 3:30 in the afternoon and interviewed at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at 9 the next day. I received a job offer that afternoon.”
Over the next ten years, Metts would steadily climb through the ranks, joining administration in 2001. “At the time, I was one of only three officers in the department with a master’s degree. I had started my bachelor’s while in the Air Force when a friend didn’t want to take classes alone. I took one with him, then another, and another - until I had completed my associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” he said.
“The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, but I always tell my students that’s because the septic tank is under that grass!”
The most memorable moment in Metts’ career occurred in 2000, when he graduated from the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. “Less than one percent of law enforcement personnel are selected to attend the academy. You have to be approved by your chain of command, and recommended by three congressmen and/or senators,” shared Metts.
“At the Academy, then director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, spoke to us. He told the left half of the room to stand up and said ‘you will be in charge of your agency in a few years.’ To the other half of the room he said ‘and this half will be the second in command’ – wow,” recalls Metts.
When the Sumter County Sheriff retired, Metts ran for the office - against his current boss. “It was a bit chaotic in the office, as four of us were running for Sheriff. I lost the primary by 106 votes, and my boss was elected,” reflects Metts. “I went into the office the next day, assuming that I would be let go, but instead, I was offered the job of second in command.”
Metts credits the offer to his loyalty and professionalism. “I remained positive, and more importantly, loyal to my boss at work during our mutual campaigns.”
To fill the time that he had spent campaigning, Metts decided to earn his doctorate. “A few people gave me funny looks since they knew I was already teaching as an adjunct for two schools - St. Leo University and the University of South Carolina. But my motto has always been ‘sacrifice it now and reap it later,’” he said.
“I loved being a cop. But I realized that I needed to step away from the stress of the role. Over the years I had lost three good friends.”
Metts enrolled in NCU’s D.B.A. in 2006. “In a remarkable example of timing, my father was diagnosed with cancer that same year, and I defended my dissertation in 2012, on the anniversary of his death.”
Metts’ dissertation studied whether education levels had any mitigating effect on the stress levels of law enforcement personnel. “The results were no, but I did find that administrative officers and women in the force experience greater stress levels,” explained Metts.
In August of 2012, Metts retired from the Sumter County Sheriff’s office after a 30-year career. “I loved being a cop. But I realized that I needed to step away from the stress of the role. Over the years I had lost three good friends. And, my long term plan had always been to retire at 50 and try something totally new.”
Today Metts is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Charleston Southern University and he serves on a Kaplan advisory panel comprised of retired police officers. They provide guidance on how the field of law enforcement is changing and where Kaplan should focus.
So what is the parting advice that Metts shares with his young students in an age where employee loyalty is often considered déclassé? “The grass always looks greener on the other side of fence, but I always tell my students that’s because the septic tank is under that grass!”