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Witnessing History

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KSP’s Mitchell part of Inauguration Day detail

By Lorrie Kinkade

To say Jim Mitchell is one in a million was definitely an understatement last week.

Mitchell, a 12-year veteran of the Kentucky State Police, was among more than two million people who crowded into Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, with most there to witness the inauguration festivities as Barack Obama became the nation’s 44th president.

But unlike others making the journey to D.C. hoping for a glimpse of the new Commander in Chief or wishing to become part of the historical day as the nation’s first African-American president took the oath of office, for Mitchell this trip was all business.

A Henry County resident and Senor Road Unit assigned to KSP Post 5 in Campbellsburg, Mitchell was one of 39 KSP personnel joining nearly 4,000 other law enforcement officials from across the country to made the trek to D.C. to serve and protect on this monumental day.

Arriving in Baltimore, Maryland late Sunday, Jan. 18, he and fellow officers had little time for sleep before beginning their special detail.

On Monday, along with being briefed on specific assignments and taking an oath granting them temporary local police powers, the officers spent hours being instructed by Secret Service agents and officers from the U.S. Marshall’s office as to their role in the massive operation. Keys to spotting suspicious activity in the immense crowds, tips for handling unattended packages and videos of bomb explosions were all part of the drill for the visiting officers.

Then it was back to the hotel for a little rest before heading back to the heart of the inauguration festivities.

“We were back up, dressed and ready to go at 3 a.m. I was assigned crowd control along the parade route and on the way there, we ended up getting stuck in traffic,” Mitchell said. “There were so many people, they overflowed the sidewalks and closed the road for hours. People were all around us and we had to get out [of the vehicle] to try to get a path cleared to get through. It was a nightmare.”

Although he and the other officers eventually made it to their assigned post along the parade route, Mitchell doesn’t have photos of the presidential motorcade or the marching bands that passed right behind him.

“We were told to keep out eyes on the crowd. The danger was not with the motorcade. The danger potential was in the crowd,” he said.

Other than the earlier traffic troubles and an unsecured bag that eventually proved harmless, Mitchell said the special detail went relatively smoothly.

And although he was unable to catch sight of President Obama, he and several of the other officers did have the chance to pay their respects at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The memorial honors more than 14,000 federal, state and local officers who died in the line of duty.

“That was something we really wanted to do. We found names of officers from Kentucky and took some pictures,” he said.

As for the inauguration celebration detail, Mitchell said, “It was definitely an honor to be there, but it was a long four days.”

KSP Post 5 Detective Todd Harwood was also assigned to the detail, however he was unable to attend due to an ongoing murder investigation in Trimble County.