After nearly 30 years at Decherd, working his way up the career ladder from patrolman to chief, Capt. Ben Foster tossed in the employment towel on Sept. 17.
Foster, a 1974 Franklin County High School graduate who began his law enforcement career as a patrolman in Cowan in 1979 and worked at Arnold Center from 1988 to 1992 when he moved on to Decherd, said leaving the career that has encompassed his life is “bittersweet.”
He said it will be nice to do things he loves to do in retirement — woodworking, fishing, hunting and “honey dos” for wife MaeBelle — but he will be leaving behind what he enjoyed most about his career — the people he worked so closely with.
“I’ll have projects. There will be plenty to do,” he said about retiring.
Then he referred to what has been a driving force behind how he’s handled his job for nearly 42 years.
“I want to treat people the way I’d want to be treated,” he said. “That’s why they call me ‘Gentle Ben.’”
Foster said he realized early in life that he wanted to be a police officer, and his interest was sparked by his grandfather, Floyd Eslick, who had been a Decherd patrolman.
Foster referred to a picture taken in 1957 with him and his grandfather with a Decherd police car his grandfather had driven.
“I was two years old then, and I knew then that I wanted to get into law enforcement,” Foster said.
He said the staff at Decherd has been “just like a second family,” and he will miss seeing them daily but still has the option to stop by and see how things are going with his former coworkers.
Interim Police Chief Kenneth Griffin said Foster’s presence at the police station and around City Hall will be sorely missed.
“He’s been a great influence, especially for the younger generation of police officers,” Griffin said. “He’s been a great asset to the department, and he will really be missed. We couldn’t have done a lot of the things we’ve done without him. He’s really helped the staff.”
Foster said the law enforcement field has changed over the past 40 years.
He said as his career progressed, there has been a trend where law enforcement officers throughout the country have faced obstacles.
“There’s less respect now,” Foster said. “It’s going to be hard on these young officers who are coming up through the ranks.
“You’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s what I tell all of them. You can take the worst situation, and if you just look at them and don’t be so hard on them. I’ve had bad days, and they’re having a bad day too.”
Foster said he’s had to arrest people who later told him they appreciated how he handled their situation.
“They thanked me for being nice to them,” he said.