Trooper recalls act of kindness that shaped his career decision
David Knox has an old picture of his son as a little boy, wearing Knox’s S.C. Highway Patrol uniform. But Tuesday, his now 22-year-old son wore his own uniform as he was escorted across the stage by his father to get his patrol commission at the Highway Patrol’s graduation.
“It was a proud moment,” Knox, a 25-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, said after the ceremony. “I’ve attended a lot of graduations, but it’s kind of different when your son’s involved.”
Knox was drawn to law enforcement by his father and other family members who were officers. And that is what drew his son, Timothy, to the field years ago “probably when I could first start walking,” Timothy said.
“Growing up around it and wanting to help people, and always seeing him coming home and all the neat stories he had, it’s just always intrigued me as something I wanted to be a part of,” Timothy Knox said.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina last year with a criminal justice degree, the younger Knox completed the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy and then the Highway Patrol’s academy to become a trooper like his father.
“I tried to talk him out of it, but that’s what he wanted to do,” David Knox said with a chuckle. His tone grew more serious when he discussed the long hours and the dangers associated with the job, which have increased since he first joined the patrol in 1987.
“It’s different. Just a different respect toward law enforcement from the public,” he said. “They don’t get as much respect now. There’s more negativity toward police officers in general now.”
Timothy Knox wasn’t the only trooper escorted across the graduation stage by his father Tuesday. Robert I. Lee, a 23-year veteran of the patrol who retired last year as captain of the Multidisciplinary Accident Reconstruction Team, escorted his son, Trooper Robert I. Lee Jr., across the stage to receive his patrol commission.
“I was sitting in the chair watching him stand over there and realize that, 28 years ago I did the same thing,” he said. “I was honored that he chose this profession. It’s a profession that not a lot of people get into now-a-days.”
The younger Lee said he would never go into law enforcement, his dad said. That changed during four years in the Army as that included time as a military police officer.
“It’s actually pretty much the same, as far as the work and training go,” Lee Jr. said. “Just a different uniform and different paperwork.”
Lee Sr. also acknowledged how things have changed in the 28 years since he joined the patrol, when they had “a .357 and a dump pouch with bullets, six shots, and a pair of handcuffs.”
But he impressed the age-old advice on his son for how to treat people.
“I told him to treat people the way he would want to be treated on the traffic stop if he was stopped,” he said. “That’s about the best advice I can give any police officer – treat somebody the way you want to be treated.”
Though he retired in 2012 at the rank of corporal, David Knox came back to the patrol as a temporary employee. He and his son both work Chester and Fairfield counties.
“We’ve had a couple instances where I’ve been there in the area right there at the time it happened,” he said. “I was his backup.”
Timothy Knox said it’s good to be able to talk to his dad with questions about how to do work-related tasks. But it’s an education that’s been years in the making, he said.
“I’ve gained a lot of knowledge over the years growing up,” he said. “… It’s a great thing to have somebody that’s already in law enforcement and has the experience that can teach you. You don’t even know you’re learning all of it, but you do.”
Highway Patrol officials say they are accepting new applications for state troopers. For more information, visit https://scdps.sc.gov/careers/sctrooper.