In the old days, when Newton County was still a small rural community and Jimmy Bird was still a spry young sheriff's deputy, protect and serve had a totally different meaning. Deputies liked to take care of the situation while still keeping people's records clean.
"But now you can't do that," Bird, 63, said. "You got to many eyes and ears and people wanting to sue at the drop of a hat. You just can't afford to take the chance anymore. Back in the old days, we would sometimes take DUI's home, but now we wouldn't even thing about doing that."
Much has changed in the almost 31-years Bird has served as an officer at the Newton County Sheriff's Office, which is part of the reason he has decided to hand up his badge.
"When us old timers started, on the way to a call, we knew exactly what to expect when we got there," Bird said. "Because 99.9 percent of the time, we knew who we were gonna be dealing with and what we were gonna to have to do to get the problem solved when we got there. Nowadays, the patrol guys have no idea what they are gonna be faced with when they get there."
Bird cites number and variety of people with different backgrounds in Newton County as one source of the patrol officer's peril.
"Times have changed tremendously," Bird said. "It's taken a 180-degree turn since I started and I'm no spring chicken no more. This day and time, it's getting to be a young man's job. It's no place for somebody with age on them. Not out here anyway."
Bird said he had never personally had any problems with people in the community, but has heard stories from patrolling deputies.
"Regular patrol officers have started having a lot of trouble with the people that they deal with," Bird said. "I just feel like that before I start having problems, I should step down. Just turn it over and let the young people have it."
During the three decades he has been in law enforcement, Bird has served in a variety of capacities including on the street as a regular patrol officer and as part of the Selective Traffic Enforcement unit. He has also worked at the court house and currently serves evictions with the civil division of the NCSO.
Born and raised in Newton County, Bird has been married to Ginger Bouchillion for the past 38 years. The couple met under unusual circumstances, especially for the time, but Bird prefers to keep some stories to himself. They have two children, Dean and Christie, who are both grown now. Bird found out this week Christie is expecting her first child, his first grandchild.
Before he became a husband, father or a deputy, Bird was an officer in the US Air Force from 1963-1967.
"Back then, it was hard to get a decent job until you had your military experience because the draft was still in," Bird said. "And I just figured I'd have a better choice if I went ahead and joined."
Bird joined shortly after high school and spent the next four years away from Newton County. The last year of his service, Bird was stationed in Bangkok, Thailand at the post office.
"I'm proud to say it was a plush assignment," Bird said.
While Bird enjoyed his stay, he said it was a revelation about the rest of the world.
"Man, people don't know how to appreciate anything until they go over seas and see the way other people have to live."
Money was apparent in Thailand, Bird said, but only in certain areas. Most people lived in below-standard conditions.
After returning from the service, Bird held a variety of jobs around Newton County, but never seemed to find the perfect fit. But when a few of his friends joined the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Bird became very interested in their careers.
So he bought a scanner and began to get involved with other officers. Pretty soon, he knew what he wanted to do.
"I liked to worry the sheriff to death until he hired me," Bird said.
Bird began working for the NCSO Aug. 15, 1976. He plans on officially retiring in September.
"I guess I finally found something that I really liked," Bird said.
And while Bird has enjoyed his career for over 30-years, there have been some tough moments. The year he was hired, he and his partner were on the scene when a Covington Police Officer was killed in the line of duty.
"That was sort of an eye opening experience," Bird said.
Later in his career, Bird witnessed a wreck that will stick with him the rest of his life.
"There was a car that had turned over several times and its top had been mashed down where people couldn't get out," Bird said "There was a man and his wife in there, but they were not injured. The car started to blaze up, but nobody could do anything and they burned up."
But those are just a few low points in an otherwise happy career. Bird has particularly enjoyed working with teenagers at the local high schools. For the last 25-years, he has preformed a variety of duties at several local schools.
"It means a lot when they come up and remember you through the years," Bird said.
As the size of the schools has increased, some of the schools have gotten some undeserved criticism, Bird said.
"The vast majority of kids in Newton County are good kids," Bird said. "But it's just like everything else; you've got a few rotten apples."
After 31 years, he was bound to run into a few of those.