Law enforcement is a family affair at the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
The department employs four fathers with sons that also have joined.
Deputy Tommy Cooksey Sr. has two sons that followed him into the sheriff's department.
"I think it is great," he said. "What father wouldn't want (to share interests and pass along something to his sons). I pretty much followed what (my father) did. He was in the military, then became a police officer and I did the same thing."
Cooksey joined the reserves in 1996 and joined the sheriff's office full-time two years ago. He and his oldest son, Deputy Tommy Cooksey Jr., 26, share the same beat, but on opposite night shifts.
"We both work the 10 beat. So, 365 days a year, there is a Cooksey on the 10 beat," Tommy Sr. said.
Of course, there is confusion between "Big Cooksey" and "Little Cooksey," as co-workers refer to them, and the youngest Cooksey on the sheriff's office lineup -- Investigator James Cooksey, 23, who has been on the Narcotics and Vice Squad since he started three years ago.
Both sons admit their father's influence played a major role in the career choice after tagging along to the shooting range and the classes Tommy Sr. Now, the only time they work together is on Special Response Team calls, Tommy Jr. said.
Investigator and Staff Sgt. Harold Clack and his son Sean don't get mistaken for each other as easily. Harold, 58, is an investigator in the Criminal Investigations Division and Special Crimes Unit, while Sgt. Sean Clack oversees A-shift of the Road Patrol.
"He told me when he was 13 or 14 years old that he was going to be a cop," Harold said. "I have another son who is a lieutenant with the EMA/Fire Department in Burke County as an EMT fireman. He does not have the temperament (for the sheriff's office). We tried to get him to come over and work with us, but he won't do it. My wife, she always said we had the attitude that we were both mean enough to take care of ourselves."
Deputy Tommy Cooksey Sr., has two sons, Tommy Cooksey Jr. and James Cooksey, in the Columbia County Sheriff's Department. James works undercover and
could not be included in the photograph.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Harold retired from the state in 1995 when he joined the sheriff's office -- becoming a certified police officer just two years after his son did within the now-defunct Augusta Police Department.
Though he made it first, Sean admits his father made a huge impact on his choice to go into law enforcement.
"Back when I remember when I was 7, 8 or 9 years old, I used to ride with him and go down and check on the kids, make sure they were following curfew and what not," Sean said. "It was fun. I just took an interest to it."
Until Sean went to the road patrol, his and his father's offices were only two doors away, so they had to work well together.
"I had to. He paid for my lunch everyday," Sean joked. "There were days when I didn't like him, but I wouldn't say anything because he had lunch money and I didn't."
The two spend time coaching Little League, lifting weights and riding motorcycles together when off-duty.
The sheriff's office includes father-son teams Lt. Gilbert and Deputy Gilbert Lopez and Deputies Buddy and Sean Joiner.
Harold says he doesn't want to see his grandchildren follow the two previous generations into law enforcement, but Tommy Sr. is confident his sons can handle the job.
"Actually, I wasn't worried about them too much (when they started) because all of my career, they have been by my side out on the range, out there shooting with me, watching me teach classes and stuff like that," he said. "I feel comfortable. I don't worry about it at night."
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