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Hometown police officer in Milton making difference

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

MILTON -- Playtime with his soon-to-be stepdaughters illustrates Kyle O'Dell's love for family. It's a passion that drives not only the police officer's life -- but also his career.

O'Dell, 27, will soon marry a local hair stylist, whom he first met in church when they both attended elementary school. The couple reconnected years later in town. His need for a haircut equaled love at first clip.

The marriage promises him two daughters, ages 6 and 9. They are children for whom he already has developed a deep love, speaking this week about how his passion for rock climbing and the outdoors has been hijacked by Barbie dolls and the Bratz television series.

It's definitely a chance of pace from O'Dell's average workday, but those experiences drive the corporal's desire to eradicate drugs from his hometown. He mentioned kids who wonder what is happening as mom and dad shoot up drugs, and children whose addiction breaks up their parents who can't handle the stress involved.

"To me nobody deserves stuff like that," he said. "There are a lot of good people that we've arrested that are on drugs who have got really great families and it ruins them. It ruins families. That's all there is to it. It kills them."

That passion recently led O'Dell to pioneer a new city ordinance. Fashioned after a nearly identical measure in Huntington, it will allow Milton police to issue citations when they find people carrying drug paraphernalia. That includes syringes, pipes, bongs and many other tools utilized in drug abuse.

The ordinance fills a frustrating gap that O'Dell repeatedly stumbled upon. That involved traffic stops wherein he noticed suspected paraphernalia, but not the drugs. The city having no law against such paraphernalia left him with no legal standing to pursue criminal charges or conduct a further search.

"To sit there and know that somebody is driving off with drug paraphernalia, when you know all their doing is getting ready to go somewhere to buy that drug, it aggravates you," he said.

O'Dell didn't look at his frustration as defeat, but instead as a challenge to get around.

Now everything has changed.

O'Dell nervously stood before City Council to explain the need. Its members responded in February with unanimous approval. Now simply possessing drug paraphernalia can lead to a citation and fine, which indirectly allows the police department to make record of a person and document their role in the larger drug scene.

"We're kind of putting a dent in it a little more," he said. "It's not a huge tool, but at least it's something."

The ordinance already has been used once.

O'Dell is satisfied with the result, but believes more needs to be done. He expressed need for an unmarked vehicle and undercover investigations, along with educational initiatives all aimed at making a larger dent in the trafficking of methamphetamine, prescription pills, marijuana and an increasing amount of heroin.

"I want them to understand the Milton Police Department is not here just to throw you in cuffs," he said eluding to how police can help rebuild families. "We're here to help you out too. That's why it says on the car -- to protect and serve."

O'Dell's path to police work started at age 15 as a junior firefighter with the town's volunteer fire department. He stayed for about five years and began to notice police help people. That inspired O'Dell and led to him joining a firefighter colleague in working at an armed security company.

At age 21, O'Dell returned to live with his father in Georgia. That's where he wanted to pursue a career with a sheriff's office in suburban Atlanta.

The dream did not materialize and O'Dell was laid off from an unrelated job. That brought him back to Milton for what was supposed to be a visit. He ended up staying an extra month to test with his hometown police department and the rest is history as he has been the agency for three and a half years.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

Kyle O'Dell

Age: 27

Family: Engaged with two soon-to-be stepdaughters

Hometown: Milton

Education: Homeland security diploma from National Institute of Technology; Cabell Midland High School graduate, 2004.

Job Title: Corporal, Milton Police Department

Things I like to do: Outdoor activities such as rock climbing, camping, spelunking and shooting guns.

Memberships: Cabell County Fraternal Order of Police No. 122

Favorite television shows: "Cops" and "Alaska State Troopers"