Folks in Madison County will tell you that most local police officers are good people and dedicated public servants.

They have a difficult job, never knowing for sure what danger might lurk around the next corner. The job demands courage, diligence, honesty and, above all, integrity.

And most local cops have the right stuff.

But, as in most other professions, not every police officer behaves ethically and legally. A few abuse their authority to seek personal gain or to cause trouble for others.

In the Sunday, July 7, issue of The Herald Bulletin, a long front-page story detailed the alleged transgressions of one such officer, former Madison County sheriff's deputy Shane Partlow.

Knowing that he would be fired, Partlow resigned in March. He had faced disciplinary action at least five times and had been suspended 45 days without pay over the past decade.

I won't rehash here the allegations of sordid behavior against Partlow. If you haven't read the July 7 story, you can find it at heraldbulletin.com.

I do want to dedicate the rest of this column to two current Madison County sheriff's deputies.

Jeff Richwine and Andy Williams are far more representative than Partlow of their peers.

Both have clean disciplinary records and have been dedicated public servants throughout their careers with the sheriff's department.

Sheriff Scott Mellinger had this to say about them:

"Jeff is a solid performer in our patrol section. He serves on the Sheriff’s Crash Team as a senior member with significant responsibilities.

"Andy is a patrol deputy who goes out of his way daily to respond to calls as well as performing tasks for the public that he comes across on his own. He also serves on the Sheriff’s Crash Team."

Williams and Richwine seem to have a lot in common. Both were initially hired as jail officers, and both became deputies in 2000.

And both were innocent bystanders in our report on Partlow. They happened to be in archived photos we published July 7 of the former deputy.

I made the decision to publish these photos, reasoning that the captions and the story clearly identified Partlow as the person accused of rampant misbehavior.

But I failed to take into account that Partlow's name was not used in the headline of the story and that some "readers" wouldn't even begin to read the story and would jump to the erroneous conclusion that Richwine and Williams had done something wrong.

Obviously, they had not.

Far from it, Richwine and Williams — like the vast majority of other local police officers — are out on the road day after day doing their best to uphold the law with integrity and to keep Madison County safe.

Editor Scott Underwood's column is published Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at 765-640-4845 or scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com.

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