By Chief Lee Tramel, Knox County Sheriff’s Office
Walking through the Knox county court system you can hear some amazing stories. One day this past December, after I had stepped into three of our 28 courtrooms, I decided to make that trip my topic for this article.
My first stop was misdemeanor court, a court that hears cases where punishment does not exceed 11 months 29 days in county jail. Most of these cases are shoplifting or theft under $500 simple assault, driving charges other than DUI and public intoxication. On this particular day there where 3 UT students charged public intoxication and under age consumption of alcohol. It was obvious with their reaction to the court proceeding that, this really wasn’t a big deal to them. All three seemed like smart kids, but they have no idea just how long this bad decision will follow them.
My second stop was DUI court. This court deals with driving under the influence and those crimes that come from that statute, such as driving on revoked licenses. On this day there was a 21 year old restaurant cook who was facing his second DUI and a charge of driving on a revoked license. He has only been driving for 5 years and now has already been charged twice with DUI. Those decisions will haunt him for years to come. I only hope he can learn from his mistakes before someone gets hurt or killed.
“All three seemed like smart kids, but they have no idea just how long this bad decision will follow them…If you make poor decisions, your time as a leader will be cut short.”
My third stop was felony court. This court deals with all crimes that are punishable by a year or more in the state penitentiary. On this day, you could see the ravages of drug abuse. There she stood in her jail issued jump suit, a young 20 year old girl who was charged with drug possession and prostitution. Three years earlier she was in high school, a cheerleader and an honor student. On this day her arms were full of needle tracks and she was showing symptoms of withdrawal or what some call “ dope sick.“ She had borrowed and stolen from everyone in her family and all of her friends.
The only person in her life that matters is her pimp and drug dealer. Her drug of choice is OxyContin and she sells herself to get her fix. Her decisions have put her face to face with one of the strongest addictions we know today, the addiction to OxyContin. In all three courtrooms on this one day in December and on everyday they are open, prosecutors and judges deal with bad decisions people make.
Most people don’t know the profound effects of making decisions. We make decisions every day and we make a lot of them. We make some decisions unconsciously like vanilla or chocolate, and yet those decisions help shape our current reality. Decision making is an essential leadership skill. If you can learn how to make timely, well-considered decisions, then you can lead your team to success. If, however, you make poor decisions, your time as a leader will be cut short. In life, if you make poor decisions you can learn from those decisions and be prepared to make better ones next time. But, if you choose to keep repeating your bad decision making, you could loose your freedom or your life. Every decision made produces a final choice. What will your next decision be?
Lee Tramel is the Assistant Chief Deputy for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. During his 26 year career, he also served in the civil warrants division and as Assistant Director of the Court Services Division. Lee is a Knoxville native, where he lives with his wife and 10 year old daughter.