Friday afternoon was a day to look suave for bearded members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Bud Allison Memorial Lodge 9.
That “coolness” paid off for three members of the FOP as they walked away winners, being awarded a new pair of iconic reflector sunglasses and a DVD copy of the campy cop movie “Super Troopers.”
And on what criteria were these heroes of our community being judged? Their moustaches.
The FOP held a moustache competition among its members as a fun to just have a little fun in a job that is normally not stocked with good news. Organizers said the high number of in-the-line-of-duty deaths across the country so far this year weighs heavily on officers’ minds, and a fun competition like the moustache contest is a way to draw attention in a lighthearted manner, said FOP Bud Allison 9 chapter president Laramy Gregory.
“We’re trying to raise awareness. There have been 48 officers killed in the line of duty across the nation so far this year, and we recently had an officer with the KPD shot,” said Gregory. “This is just a goofy, fun way to bring attention to the officers and the jobs they do.”
Blount County corrections officer Bob Evans won the Most Creative with his handlebar moustache. Andy Waters, a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division, won Best Effort for his moustache. Allen Latham, a Traffic Division member of the Maryville Police Department, won the Magnum - the Moustache of all Moustaches.
Latham said he grew his moustache out this winter while riding his police motorcycle and initially didn’t know what to think of the competition. “When they first mentioned the contest, I thought it was a joke,” he said with a laugh.
Roger Murphy, a volunteer chaplain and a diver with the Blount Special Operations Response team, said, “It has been a difficult year for law enforcement, and there have been a lot of casualties. I’m glad to bring attention to that.”
Steve Stilts, owner of S & S Industries and organizer of the annual SlimFest community concert to benefit the chapter’s Shop with a Cop program, joined Murphy, Bethany Blair and Courtney Hodge as judges.
“I’m glad to help support law enforcement,” Stilts said. “It is for a good cause.”
Capt. Dan Neubert Jr., who has long kept a thick moustache, was in the contestant and said he appreciated any efforts to bring attention to sacrifices law enforcement makes. “It has been a bad time to be a law enforcement officer. You can’t turn on the news without hearing of an officer getting shot,” he said.
Neubert said that often law enforcement officers often are criticized. “But when someone needs help, they’re the first to arrive,” he said.
The captain said the contest shows the FOP member’s in a positive light. “Most people don’t know about what we do,” he said. “The more you understand something, the less you fear it.”
Blair, co-owner of Bebe Salon, 1714 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville, is familiar with the sacrifices of officers. Her husband, deputy Josh Blair, works in the Blount County Sheriff’s Office training division, and she said she appreciated the idea of raising awareness of the dangers members of law enforcement face. Having the good-natured contest put officers in a positive light. “It’s very important,” she said, “and I think the contest is a neat way to do it.”