From an early age, Mike Hopson knew his heart was in helping others through police work, and, now, with nearly 39 years of law enforcement experience under his gunbelt, the long-time officer is retiring.
“I grew up in it,” Hopson said of law enforcement.
His father, Charles Hopson, was a long-time law enforcement officer, working as an investigator for the Franklin County District Attorney’s office and serving as chief of police in South Pittsburg.
“I started filling in as a dispatcher when I was 15,” Hopson recalled. “Back then, we had one full-time dispatcher; I’d work for him when he was out or on vacation.
“That was my thing – I wanted to be in law enforcement.”
Dispatching duties were a little slower than they are today with only one radio to monitor during those days.
In 1975, Hopson got the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer when he was hired by Fayetteville Police Department.
The job was much different back then than it is today. As a patrolman, Hopson did everything from checking doors at night to writing parking tickets, and even investigating his first homicide case as a shift investigator six months into his career.
“The first radio we had was so big it was like a brick,” he recalled of his early patrol days. “You could hear it, but you’d have to stop and raise the antenna, which was about three feet tall, to talk.”
Over his career, Hopson, who has most recently served as director of the E-911 Communications Center, has witnessed first-hand the tremendous changes that have taken place in law enforcement, especially in the area of technology.
“Technology has gotten smaller, more compact and more user friendly,” he said.
When Hopson was monitoring one radio as a 15-year-old dispatcher, he couldn’t imagine that one day he’d be helping to implement a simulcast system that allows deputies to communicate via portable radio from rural areas of the county, areas where at one time there was no communication, even by patrol car radio.
Hopson’s career has taken him from patrol officer to patrol sergeant, to investigator for 16 years, shift captain, administrator and eventually director of the E-911 Communications Center.
He retires as a police officer, his first love – “I started off as a police officer and end as a police officer.”
Throughout his career, Hopson has been influenced by longtime law enforcement officers here – Chiefs V.D. Warren , T.C. Counts and Tom Barnes, as well as Sheriff Tom Bean, whom he describes as “just like a daddy to me.”
While this week will be his last on the job, Hopson said he’ll still be around, helping with radio programming and continuing work with the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Officers Association (TLETOA), which recently granted him a lifetime membership. Hopson has served as training officer here since around 1986.
“I hope to still be able to help with that,” he said of working with TLETOA.
“I don’t plan on getting out of public safety all together,” he said, noting he will continue work with SKYWARN and ham radio here.
Hopson’s retirement plans include “catching up on about 38 years of stuff around the house,” he said.
Additionally, he plans to help care for his three young grandsons, Luke, Eli and Caleb, and spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and son and daughter-in-law, Tommy and Jenny Hopson.
“I enjoyed every day working out on the streets with the citizens,” he said, describing the most rewarding aspect of his long career.
“There have been a lot of hard things to deal with over the years, but I appreciate those people I’ve dealt with. I’ve made a bunch of friends over the years, even with writing tickets and putting people in jail.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of dealing with the people.”