With more than 75 years of combined law enforcement experience, three generations of the Bradford family have accepted their callings in serving the community through law enforcement. The trio talked about their combined work experience in CPD Captain Ken Malcom’s Criminal Justice class at Georgia State University Newton Campus Monday.
“This particular section of the course calls for an examination of the history of policing in our country,” Malcom said. “I always try to bring each topic to life in some way. By having Herman Bradford in attendance, our discussions went back 50 years in the profession. My students were fascinated with his experiences and the 30-plus years of experiences by his son Philip. They also found it interesting how Herman’s grandson, Robert, is faced with the challenges of today.
“I think the session was extremely insightful for these criminal justice students who were able to hear from ‘those who lived it’ how the focus of the profession has changed over the last 50 years.”
Following in his father’s footsteps
Former Covington Police Department (CPD), Newton County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) and District Attorney (DA) investigator Herman Bradford got his start in law enforcement in 1967 when he was approached by a friend to get into the business.
“You know, I never thought about it,” Herman said. “I was happy doing what I was doing.”
Herman had previously worked in the construction industry. He applied for a job with the CPD and was hired that day. He started working on the radio before he went to the 40-hour Mandate School training in 1970 and he started patrolling.
“There wasn’t the training like there is now, but there wasn’t as much going on,” he said.
In 1975 Herman transitioned into a position with NCSO, where he worked for three years before starting as an investigator with the DA’s office. Herman retired from the DA’s office in 2001 after 34 years of service. He then took a part-time position as a court bailiff for 10 years after that.
When Herman’s son, current CPD Captain Philip Bradford, was a child he did not think of his dad’s job as anything out of the ordinary. That was until he saw his friends reaction to his father during his second grade career day and everything changed. From that day forward, a career in law enforcement was the dream.
“I didn’t see him like everybody else saw him – he was my dad. When he came home in uniform I didn’t ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ over his uniform, so I guess I really didn’t know what I had,” Philip said.
Philip put his application in with the CPD immediately after graduating high school in May of 1985 and was hired in November at 18 years old to work as a jailor.
“From there, I moved up through the ranks over the years,” he said.
Philip has worked as a patrol officer, detective, an officer with a federal drug unit, on the CPD VIPER unit, commander of a tri-county drug unit and commander of a local drug unit before being promoted to captain in 2011. Philip currently serves as captain of the uniform patrol division.
Robert Bradford, son of Philip and grandson of Herman, recently completed the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Academy and started working with the Athens Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD) in September. Robert credits his decision to go into law enforcement to the two role models he grew up watching.
“As long as I can remember, that’s all I wanted to do,” Robert said.
Robert graduated from the POST Academy in mid-September and has been training as an ACCPD patrol officer for about 11 weeks. He has also been working towards certifications, such as field sobriety and active shooter training. He has about four more weeks of field training before being on the road on his own.
Robert initially planned on following in his father’s footsteps of entering the law enforcement career immediately out of high school, but Philip urged him to get a degree. Robert received his associate degree from Georgia Perimeter College before entering the Academy.
“For me, I have learned over time that education is important in this day and age,” Philip said.
Philip said he is also currently working on receiving his bachelor’s degree from Troy University – at 50 years old.
It’s not like it used to be
Over the course of their combined careers, the Bradfords have seen a change in how policing is done, how police officers are treated and the technology that goes along with the profession.
Herman said his main concern when he was patrolling was the spread of bootleg alcohol. He was also policing during the time of the Civil Rights movement and was tasked with working the daily marches through the city.
Herman said in his day of policing people respected law enforcement.
“You didn’t go on a scene and they wanted to fight,” he said. “No fighting, they would not fight a police officer. Nowadays they’ll shoot you.”
However, Philip said when he started in law enforcement he was part of a transitional period in law enforcement. CPD became an accredited agency soon after he started.
“All I’ve ever know is standards and procedures and there’s a way to do it because there’s a guide book to guide us; that’s all I’ve ever known,” he said. “But there was some people that I was working with that were still doing it the old way and it was hard for them to transition into this new culture of policing under guidelines that they had never had to go by.
“Whereas, when he (Robert) comes into it, he’s never seen this (Herman’s) culture and then my culture a lot of things have changed – so as he comes in, these are not problems for him because he’s always been taught one certain way.”
Robert said one of the biggest challenges he faces currently in law enforcement is the lack of respect people have for the profession.
“Whenever you go somewhere, it’s always ‘Why are you here?’” he said.
Robert said it is important to always treat people with respect – how you would want to be treated – and he does not always receive that same treatment in return.
“People not respecting you it doesn’t make it easier at all, it’s hard to do,” he said.
Robert also said he is constantly dealing with the growing use of technology and social media.
Herman said he would not be able to work in law enforcement in this day and age with everything that is going on.
Have no fear; it’s what we’re called to do
Philip said he worries about his son entering the law enforcement career because he knows the dangers he can face on a daily basis, but he is not fearful.
“We were raised in church and we have faith in God, so we don’t walk in fear,” he said. “Now, I’m not saying we don’t ever get scared, but we have a peace in this walk that we walk every day – every one of us – and so would I be upset if he (Robert) got shot and killed in the line of duty? Absolutely, but I don’t wake up every day scared.”
Herman said he has heard a few calls in Athens that have led him to call and check on Robert.
“I may not think about it all day long, but if I hear something I may call over here and say ‘Who’s that involved, did any policemen get hurt?’” he said. “It wasn’t that I was scared, I’ve always looked at it as: If you do your job right then there’s a point in time for you to die and go.”
Robert said growing up he never really thought about his father or grandfather getting injured in the line of duty.
“I believe this is what we’re called to do,” he said. “Again, I would be upset if it happened, but when it’s time I guess it’s your time.”