Police Chief Don Teal Says Goodbye to Martin


Editor’s Comment: Trigger warning: Teal shares a story concerning a suicidal situation during his tenure that may trigger some readers.

The City of Martin gathered together on Thursday, June 20 to celebrate the career of Police Chief Don Teal.

Teal, who started his career January 3, 1983, reflected on the past 41 years with the department with nostalgia.

“You do something for as long as I have and all of a sudden you’re not doing it anymore. It make you nervous,” Teal said, however Teal reflected on all the happy memories he made along the way.

“The friends I made over the years, the friendships-because we’re brothers and sisters and it’s a camaraderie that we’ve developed over the years looking after one another,” Teal said.

Teal said that a lot of the people he started with are no longer there-either moving away or passing away, but that all of the relationships he’s made along the way are his happiest memories at the department.

Teal said that a lot has changed with the department since 1983 when he first started his journey. Starting off as a small department with only three people working each shift and everyone having a vehicle to take home, employees had to do more with less, Teal explained.

Social media and technology made impacts on the department and employees as well. “This job changed so much. It changed at different levels and technology and social media impacted the department a lot,” Teal said.

One thing Teal said he won’t miss is the caliber of criminals continuing to elevate.

“It just seems that criminals are becoming more violent and I worry every day about my folks, my officers and the danger they face. That’s my greatest fear in this position and my greatest fear as I leave. I’m not going to miss that, but I’m still going to be concerned because the danger keeps elevating,” Teal said.

Teal also reflected on one of the most terrifying experience of his career when a woman called stating that her boyfriend was going to take his own life.

Teal described the situation where him and two other officers responded and Teal spent five hours talking the man down.

“When we pulled up he came out of the house with a gun to his head and stated that he was going to kill himself over and over. That took everything out of me when I was 36-I couldn’t do it at my age now,” Teal said.

One of the scariest situations Teal ever had to deal with, but Teal said he never drew his weapon on the man even though he was inches away with a loaded gun that could have been directed at him at any moment, instead Teal just talked to him.

“The good Lord, it was watching out over us that night,” Teal said.

Teal said that the man started walking and had dropped the keys out of his pocket to his car and Teal grabbed them and put them in his own pocket.

The man continued walking to a church located on Kay Street where he sat down with the gun to his head.

“I thought he was going to do it then so I just kept talking to him. He had his hand on the other side of his head because he didn’t want his brains blowing out. He was going to keep them in his head and when he did that I started talking really fast,” Teal recalled.

When the man got up to walk back to his house to get in his car, Teal said he was thankful for grabbing the keys.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done had he gone mobile. We would’ve lost him,” Teal said.

Teal talked to him for three more hours as SWAT came in and secured the area, removing the children present from the house. The man was high on crack cocaine and told Teal that he didn’t know if that was what was making him want to kill himself, but he couldn’t get off of it and get the help he needed.

Teal stated that he picked up the gun about a dozen times and put it to his head, but after the high wore off they were finally able to see him lay the gun down and walk towards Teal.

“I put him in the patrol car and took him to the hospital. It was the most difficult thing I’ll ever have to deal with. Something like that-you just never forget it,” Teal said.

Teal said the man received the help he needed and is now living in another state doing fine.

As Teal got up to attend his retirement luncheon there were tears in his eyes when asked what he was looking forward to most in retirement.

“Spending time with my wife and not having the responsibility anymore. I will be able to lay down and not worry about that and sleep all night without worrying about receiving a phone call. When you receive a phone call late at night-it’s never good news,” Teal said.

More than 100 people attended the retirement luncheon to wish Teal well, bring gifts, eat food and cake and celebrate with the man who looked over the city of Martin for 41 years.

Assistant Police Chief Phillip Fuqua will take over as Chief for the City of Martin on July 5.