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October 16, 2002

Florence officer gets state award

From: Times Daily, AL
Oct. 16, 2002

By Mike Goens
Senior Editor
October 16, 2002

Florence officer gets state award

FLORENCE - You don't find Florence police officer Tim Tankersley spending a lot of time patting himself on the back.

He's a low-key person who goes about his job in a professional manner and without seeking notoriety.

But Tankersley's quick action March 18 could not be dismissed as just part of the job.

He climbed over the guardrail at the overpass on Florence Boulevard that overlooks Railroad Avenue on that chilly morning. That's where he found himself face to face with a deaf Florence woman who appeared ready to end her life.

Tankersley began a conversation with the woman and managed to distract her long enough to place a bear hug on her and wrestle her to safety.

The state's highest ranking law enforcement officer - Attorney General Bill Pryor - recognized Tankersley's work Tuesday during Pryor's statewide law enforcement summit in Birmingham.

Tankersley was chosen as one of three officers statewide to receive Pryor's Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.

"It kinda makes you feel special to receive that award, but really I didn't do anything that any other law enforcement officer wouldn't do," Tankersley said. "There are others who have done so much more without being recognized in this manner. It's just what we do; it's our job."

Florence Police Chief Rick Singleton said heroic actions like that do not happen every day, especially in communities the size of Florence.

"He put himself at risk by climbing on the outside part of the guard rail," Singleton said.

"Had he lost his balance, she could have easily pulled him down with her."

The overpass is about 40 feet above Railroad Avenue.

Tankersley, a negotiator for the police department's hostage negotiation team, said he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

He was the first police officer to arrive at the scene and quickly recognized the woman from his investigative work in the department.

"I knew she was hearing impaired and I wanted to get close, so I used that to my advantage," Tankersley said. "I used hand motions to let her know I needed to get closer in order to understand her.

"She probably felt she could trust me, so she allowed me to get close enough to strike up a conversation."

He told the woman that she wasn't high enough to kill herself and probably would only hurt herself. He also told her that she could hurt someone else if she jumped and hit a passing car.

"I saw two guys walking on (Railroad Avenue) and told her that she would be hurting them, too," Tankersley said. "I had already planned to take my best shot if a chance presented itself. When she turned and looked, I just grabbed her.

"I was afraid to try to pull her over myself because we could both end up falling off, so I motioned to a firefighter to help me. They grabbed her legs and helped pull her over the rail."

Tankersley said his actions were not heroic.

"It seems like a big fuss about nothing," he said. "I'm just glad everything turned out the way they did, and we were able to get her some help."

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