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INTRODUCING OUR HONORED OFFICER AS A MERE LAD of 14, JAMES DUKE knew he wanted to one day be a police officer. The work was about “protecting people,” he told a reporter for the little paper in his hometown of Columbia, Tennessee. He added that it was a “difficult job.”

The young man went on to work in corrections and law enforcement with several state and local agencies. He joined the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department upon graduation from the Police Academy in November 1988.

The “difficult job” nearly became a deadly one. Late on the afternoon of January 23, 1991, Officer Duke attempted to arrest a shoplifter outside a retail store on Gallatin Road. When she refused to step out of the car, Officer Duke reached in to take the keys from the ignition. The suspect rolled up the windows, trapped his arms, and drove off,

INTENT To KILL. The car hit speeds of 45 to 60 M.P.H., and the driver told the officer that she intended to reach the interstate and twist him between tractor-trailer truck and the concrete dividers. As she sped for the interstate ramp, Officer Duke managed to wrestle the steering wheel and avoid being struck by oncoming vehicles toward which the assailant swerved.

Finally, the car ran into a ditch, Officer Duke planted his feet and pulled hard, shattering the window. He fell to the ground and the assailant drove off. Mr. Buck Dozier, a member of the Metro Council at the time, had seen Officer Duke hanging from the car, whipped around, and was first on the scene to assist. Officer Duke had suffered a severed artery in his left arm, and he underwent surgery at General Hospital that night.

THE LONG JOURNEY BACK. It took eleven months before the officer could use his left hand and over a year before he could fire his revolver.

In some ways, the most difficult part of the recovery involved intellectual and emotional work. At the time of his assault, few police departments realized that officers involved with trauma or near-death injuries had more than just physical wounds. Officer Duke suffered nightmares and anxiety attacks.

The Metro Police Department’s Behavioral Health Service Division was
established to assist officers who have survived a traumatic event. Years after the assault, Officer Duke learned that symptoms of shock and distress were perfectly normal. Today Officer Duke serves as coordinator of the Peer Support Program in Behavioral Health
Services Division. Among his many other duties, Officer Duke teaches
recruits at the Police Academy about life-threatening situations.

Officer Duke sees himself, “most of all a Servant of the most high God, one who has a Shepherd’s heart.” An ordained minister, he is pastor of St. Paul Primitive Baptist Church in Nashville.

OTHER HONORED GUESTS. With us today in person or in spirit are the officer’s wife, Mrs. Antoinette Duke, daughters Shenetric and Keonnia, son Jarrett, brother William, and the late William and Myra Duke, the officer’s parents. We are also proud to have at the table many of Officer Duke’s friends and colleagues, including Chief Ronal Serpas and senior managers of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

Theodore Roosevelt Association Police Award Honoree - JAMES DUKE

phone: 615-573-6695

PO Box 100901 Nashville, TN 37224

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