In his 31 years as an officer with the Seymour Police Department, Sgt. Ernie Davidson has seen and done it all.
Early on in his career, he spent time in classrooms introducing Patch the Pony to help kids remember ‘Nay, nay from strangers stay away.’”
He was one of the department’s first K-9 handlers, along with officers Tim Toborg and Scott Crane, in the early 1990s and attributes his only on-the-job injuries to that time, thanks to his dog Sting’s unrelenting persistence when it came to chasing down criminals.
Davidson spent the bulk of his career working the streets, making arrests and protecting and serving the community, what he calls the heart of police work.
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“The street is where it’s at. As far as I’m concerned, that is law enforcement,” he said of being on patrol. “A lot of times, law enforcement is what represents the whole city. The officers on the street are what portrays the image of the city.”
Being a beat cop suited Davidson because he enjoyed interaction with people.
“I always liked talking to people,” he said. “There would be times I would just drive around and see someone out working on their car or something and stop and talk. That’s when the public starts realizing, ‘Hey, he’s a police officer, but he’s a nice guy, too.’”
For the past five years, he has taken a more sit-down, behind-the-scenes role. He has his own office and is responsible for making sure the department’s technology, from computers to radios to phones, is working. It’s a job he took on when Officer Woody DeZarn retired.
“Anything that plugs into the wall, I’m responsible for,” he said. “And our system has grown massive.”
But staying on top of technology is an important duty, he said.
“We have to stay up with technology because the bad guys are using it, and if we don’t keep up with it, they’re going to get a step ahead,” he said. “This job needs to be done to keep the officers up to date and keep everything running and going.”
He even helps work on the police cars to keep them on the road.
“I never liked having my police car down when I was working because then you have to take a pool car,” he said. “So the idea was if they could bring it in, I’d help them change the battery, fix the wiring or whatever needs to be done to get them back on the road real quick.”
He has served under seven police chiefs and has received numerous awards over the years, many of them in recognition of being a Good Samaritan and even for saving lives.
In 1987, he saved a young girl from choking and was awarded the Outstanding Young Law Enforcement Officer Award from the Seymour Jaycees.
But all good things come to an end.
Davidson is retiring June 23, ending a long and rewarding career, from which it is difficult to walk away, he said.
A retirement party will be from 2 to 4 p.m. that day in the lobby of the police department, 205 N. Ewing St.
“This kind of becomes your family after being with them that long,” he said of officers and dispatchers. “So that’s part of what I’m going to miss.”
But at 57, Davidson said police work has changed, and it’s a much younger person’s job now.
“You’ve got to remember, a lot of people that are hiring in now weren’t even alive when I started being a police officer,” he said.
Davidson began his career as an officer July 26, 1986. He was assigned badge No. 34, and now, the department is up to 107.
“Originally, I had always wanted to become a police officer, but back then, I was working toward my degree in computer technology to become a programmer,” he said.
But he decided he would rather do computers as a hobby and pursue law enforcement instead.
He began by working as a dispatcher for three years, which is a great way to get started in the field, he said. In all, he has 34 years of service to the department.
Davidson said he has been fortunate to spend his entire career working for a law enforcement agency as educated as the Seymour Police Department.
“I’ve trained a lot of agencies across southern Indiana and you’d be amazed,” he said. “When I put our officers up against theirs, we’re not doing bad at all.”
There are many cases and situations Davidson has been involved in that stand out in his mind.
One of the more recent being the murder-suicide at Cummins Seymour Technical Center on March 10, 2016, when an employee shot and killed his supervisor and then killed himself.
“It’s one of those things you think it won’t happen here,” Davidson said.
In 1993, after major flooding along the Mississippi River, the Seymour Police Department “adopted” the city of Grafton, Illinois, and Davidson was part of a small group that drove a box truck full of cleaning supplies to hand out to residents of the devastated community. They toured the city by boat and witnessed the destruction.
“Everything was underwater,” he said.
That same year, Davidson received the Indiana State Police Officer of the Year Award.
“You don’t do this type of work for awards, but it’s nice when someone notices,” he said of receiving awards. “In today’s society, the way people feel about law enforcement in general has totally changed.”
But for all of the tragedies, there are many good stories, too, and it’s those that Davidson carries with him and remembers often.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep a positive attitude, but then you come back around and you see that one person you made a difference for,” he said. “It keeps you going because I’ve had a lot of those.”
He participated in Indiana State Police’s Respect for Law Camp in Vincennes for three years, which helped change his view of youth and how to interact with them.
“Up until that point, all I had ever dealt with were the bad kids,” he said. “After doing that camp, I realized there really are good kids.”
Although he won’t have to go to work at the station every day, Davidson said for him, retirement doesn’t mean he’s going to quit working.
He plans to continue to provide technology services to the city and other agencies through his own business, ELD Consulting, and pursue his interest in photography and travel.
“It’ll be nice to take time for the things that I want to do,” he said.
Much of his retirement also will be devoted to spending more time with his family, including his wife of 33 years, Janet, who also works in law enforcement for Jackson-Jennings Community Corrections; son, Indiana State Police Trooper Seth Davidson and his wife, Betsy; and grandchildren, Warren and Amelia.
“Originally, when I started planning for retirement three years ago, we were going to move south to a warmer climate, but when you get grandbabies, things change,” he said.
He compares a career in law enforcement to being in the circus.
“You sit in the audience and watch everything, but as a police officer, you’re in the center ring,” he said. “You know everything that’s going on, everything that’s happening, and it’s hard to step away from that. All of my friends are cops. It’s all I’ve ever known.”
Retiring was the hardest decision he has ever had to make, he added.
What: Celebration for Seymour Police Sgt. Ernie Davidson, who is retiring after 31 years of service. He also spent three years as a dispatcher.
When: 2 to 4 p.m. June 23
Where: Seymour Police Department lobby, 205. N. Ewing St.