“Say it like you mean it!” is a phrase that Lee County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Pamela Revels repeats over and over again to students in her personal safety and crime prevention classes as she teaches them to stand up for themselves.
It’s also exactly what Revels conveys unconditionally when she says, “I love my job.”
The job she loves is serving in the Lee County Sheriff’s School Resource and Training Division, a position that takes this 36-year-old modest-but-purposeful woman throughout the county, the state and even the nation to help keep the public and her fellow law enforcement professionals safe and mentally sound.
Revels has garnered numerous honors in her job — like being named the 2011 National School Resource Officer of the Year by the We Tip organization and the 2012 National Association of School Resource Officers Instructor of the Year. She has also earned a reputation for being deeply, sincerely dedicated to her work and her community.
Though Revels would prefer to deflect, if not entirely avoid, any personal attention, virtually everyone who interacts with her is compelled to sing her praises, including her boss, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, who recognized Revels’ exceptional qualities nearly a decade ago.
“They say that you have a road map in life, and I believe that, because everything I have done in life has prepared me to do this,” said Revels when she finally, reluctantly, talked about herself.
Revels’ road began in her hometown of Enterprise, Ala., where, at the age of seven, the self-admitted tomboy convinced her parents that she should take taekwondo, rather than dance classes. The martial arts were a perfect fit for Revels and, by the age of 10, she had earned her first-degree black belt and was helping teach other students — both children and adults — at her martial arts school.
She went on to earn her second-degree black belt by age 16 and her third-degree black belt by the age of 21, obtaining both at the earliest qualifying ages. The self-discipline, integrity, leadership and patience she learned through taekwondo and by playing such team sports as softball, basketball and volleyball helped set the stage for Revels’ future.
Because of her interest in athletics, Revels first enrolled in pre-physical therapy at Auburn University; later she changed her major to exercise science. She also began working as a student sports trainer for the university’s football, track and swim teams — a job that required her to get emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. That training piqued her interest in first-responder and public safety work. In her senior year at Auburn, Revels applied to be a reserve deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, an unpaid volunteer position designed to assist full-time deputies in their day-to-day duties.
After reviewing her resume, however, the Sheriff’s Office asked Revels to, instead, try out for a regular deputy position. Though she did not expect to get the job, Revels was excited about the opportunity and submitted her official application.
During the interview process, Revels mentioned to Sheriff Jones that she was particularly interested in teaching children about the dangers of drinking and driving, a comment that got his attention.
About two weeks after the interview, Jones called Revels to break the news. She had not been chosen for one of the original two deputy positions. Instead, he wanted to hire her as a regular deputy with an assignment as a school resource officer in K-12 public schools.
Knowing nothing about school-based law enforcement programs, Revels was puzzled. “I asked Sheriff Jones ‘What does that mean? What am I going to do?’”
“I don’t know, but we’re going to figure it out,” was his response.
“There are some things you will always remember,” said Revels. “That process and conversation changed my life.”
That was in 2004 and Revels soon found herself totally immersed in her new job teaching anti-drug and anti-violence campaigns in the county schools. She also found out quickly that it was hard to juggle classes at Auburn with her new job, so she made some changes.
“I re-evaluated my career choice and decided that I would change my major to criminal justice and venture into the world of online studies,” she said. Revels graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern Columbia University in 2012, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration, and she is currently working toward a master’s of business administration.
Though the road that brought Revels to this point in her life has not always been straight or easy, Revels has never looked back and truly believes it is a path she was destined to take.
“I tell people that I must have been born to do this because I love it so,” she said.
That passion for her work was obvious from the beginning of her career with the Sheriff’s Office.
“Pam grabbed this almost single-handedly and went at it,” said Jones, adding that what started as a one-woman effort by Revels is now the six-person team — the School Resource and Training Division — providing outreach and educational services to schools, the public and to fellow law enforcement officers and agencies.
“I believe our primary focus should be community interaction and involvement,” Jones said of his philosophy of law enforcement, noting that public support is a cornerstone of any successful law enforcement agency.
Revels and her team are vital to creating community support, because they are out in the community building relationships while helping area citizens protect themselves or, even better, avoid ever becoming victims of crime in the first place.
To that end, Revels and her team members coordinate and run a variety of public safety initiatives, among them, Too Good for Drugs and Violence programs in the schools, free personal safety (Rape. Aggression. Defense, or RAD) courses for youth and women and a Junior Deputy Academy summer camp for children ages 7–12 (see a list of all programs at www.leecountysheriff.org).
Each of these programs addresses a different need, but they all address the Sheriff’s Office’s primary mission: to keep the citizens of Lee County as safe as possible. For Revels, that makes her job especially gratifying.
“A lot of our job in law enforcement is reactive, and that is unfortunate, but that’s the way it is,” says Revels. “We have an awesome opportunity to actually prevent something from happening, and I LOVE that. Everything is about educating. Give people the tools they need to protect themselves and to be successful in life, and they have those tools forever.”
Among the tools is empowerment. That’s what Revels tries to instill in her RAD students as she teaches each of them how not to be a victim by yelling STOP or NO “like you mean it” should they face an aggressor. It’s also about teaching children that they really are too good to get involved with drugs, violence or even bullying and finding ways to build their confidence and self-respect.
Is it working? Revels admitted that success can be difficult to measure. How do you quantify crimes that did not happen because of the programs? But school-based statistics, including a reduction in the county’s juvenile arrests since Revels joined the staff, indicate it is working.
For Revels, however, there are more profound measures of success, such as an email she received from one of her RAD students who thwarted a purse snatcher using the techniques that Revels taught her, or a thank-you letter from one of her Too Good students who wants to grow up to be a deputy. That framed letter hangs on the wall next to Revels’ desk as a daily reminder that her work makes a difference in people’s lives.
“They teach me and they tell me this is the right way to go,” she said of her students and their responses to her efforts.
Revels also constantly says — and says it like she means it — that none of this would be possible without her team and her boss.
That team — Sergeant Dennis Harrell and deputies Heather Norred, Jody Williford, Tommy Threat and Rob Alexander — is a tightknit group of people who support one another professionally and personally. Revels knows they have her back, especially when she is traveling around the state or nation to help with training programs.
“I’m not going to leave and not know that my kids and community are safe, and my team allows me to do this,” she said. “They say that behind every great man there is a better woman. They are my better team. They put me to shame.”
And then there’s her boss. “I cannot say enough about Sheriff Jones,” Revels said. “Besides being a good boss, he is a great mentor, because he recognizes potential and he allows you the opportunity to fulfill that potential.”
He has also been a role model for Revels when it comes to his commitment to community. “He shows it, not just says it,” she said.
Though Revels and her team have already had an incredibly positive impact in the community, they know there is still so much more to be done.
“When you say ‘protect and serve’ you really need to mean it,” said Revels. “My personal goal is to make this community, my schools, safer than anywhere in Alabama, and then go out and help other people keep theirs as safe as ours.”
In fact, Revels is so committed to her job that “We have to make her go home sometimes,” said Jones. “She is that dedicated and concerned, and she brings that mindset and attitude to work every day.”
Not that Revels would rest much at home, where her four beloved dogs and the work she has been doing to renovate her house in Loachapoka, keep her more than busy.
Luckily Revels apparently has an inexhaustible supply of energy and talent. Among those talents is a real knack for home improvement, which she will soon be applying, with the help of a brand-new John Deere tractor, to a 45-acre farm that she recently bought a few miles away.
Back in the office, her talents are equally amazing and appreciated.
“Her ability to convey a message is as good as anyone I have ever seen,” Jones continued. “She takes personal pride and ownership in presenting programs in a professional manner, and she is going to do everything she can to make it successful.”
“But the thing about Pam, if I tried to sum it up in one quality, is that she cares very much about what she is doing,” he said. “She believes in what she is doing, and she loves her work. Anyone can watch her for five minutes and see that she really loves her job.”
Or just ask her.
“It is so wonderful to wake up in the morning and know you have a purpose in what you are going to do that day,” said Revels. “I love my job.”
And she means it.
- Written by Lamar Jackson