Kimberly Tomlinson just finished the spring Bartlett Citizens Police Academy and the experience has given her confidence, a sense of community, and tools she can use in an adventurous life that has been full of twists and turns.
Most recently, getting through life-threatening gall bladder surgery.
Kimber just graduated from the police academy, a six-week course that gives citizens hands-on experience of what candidates go through to become Bartlett Police officers and what they face daily.
She writes a blog called “Walking in Memphis With Kimber,” and decided her experience in the police academy was worth sharing.
The academy began with a bang.
Capt. Todd Halford came up behind the class at orientation and started banging a can with a baton.
“He wanted us to know what it’s really like if we were candidates going through the course,” Tomlinson said.
The academy takes students through evidence collection, defensive tactics, S.W.A.T. operations, K-9 Unit training, radar/traffic enforcement, crisis intervention and the use of drones, among other training.
An excerpt from Kimber’s blog about drones:
There were 3 different drones on display, from small to large. The largest, valued around a cool $30,000, was one of those massive thingymabobbers that had 2 high dollar cameras, one that can zoom in and pretty much let them know if you showered that day or not and the other was a thermal imaging camera that lets them track folks at night. My first thought was, how can they fly something THAT large without it being heard? Well, because it’s quiet, that’s how. He turned that sucker on, and the air flow it generated in the room reminded me of when I used to live in a house with an attic fan. Air whooshed all around us, but it was SUPER quiet, which was pretty cool.
The academy ends with a flurry of hands-on experiences that students go through on Field Day, including shooting a pistol, rifle and shotgun, and getting behind the wheel of a cruiser on a cone-lined obstacle course near the Penal Farm.
Kimber hit three cones, but she beat her best time on her second run by more than a minute. She was riding with reserve officer Jim Vuncannon – candidates never ride alone – who has the fastest time among officers.
“They tell you to drive it like you stole it. They are timing you. So I went all out,” Kimber said.
While she good-naturedly accepted the Cone Crusher Award for hitting the most cones in her class, she did so under protest because an intern that ran the course on Field Day hit more cones than her.
Capt. Halford’s response to her protest?: “But she is an intern and not in the actual class, you are.”
Kimber’s time of 1:55, with 5 seconds added for each cone she hit, compared to Vuncannon’s time of 1:39.
Time of the essence
Time is something Tomlinson cherishes, and the things she has accomplished the past few years is evidence.
A flurry of experiences started when she was contacted about six years ago by a digital Mexican radio station that followed her. A singer who loves rockabilly, country and other genres, Kimber amassed a following when she began interviewing Elvis tribute artists on Facebook and YouTube videos. Her no-nonsense, from-the-hip persona and knowledge of music came through in those interviews and the station’s owner offered her a slot for her own radio show.
“I really don’t know how they found me,” Tomlinson said.
Before long, the owners asked her to be a partner in the station, speedwayradio.us, and that opened more doors for experiences.
“I have the No. 1 talk rockabilly show in the world, digitally,” she said, adding that the show has listeners in 120 countries.
She was able to start recording music and went on tour in 2017 overseas. In Scotland, she played with local bands such as Not Guilty and became good friends with members of the Dangleberries, a Scottish rock band with a rabid cult following whose members play bagpipes and wear kilts on stage.
Ironically, Kimber didn’t perform rockabilly, but older, 1970s and ’80s country a la Barbara Mandrell, Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton.
“They are huge Dolly Parton fans over there (Scotland),” she said. “Dolly is to them what Elvis is to Elvis fans. So I put a lot of Dolly Parton songs in my set from that point on.”
When the pandemic hit, touring stopped and Kimber was relegated like everyone else to isolation at home. She was still able to record her radio show and conduct interviews for television shows, but things slowed down quite a bit.
In the fall of 2021, she started feeling sick but was desperate to get out of the house. She had heard about the Memphis Police Department citizens academy and decided to apply. She completed the nine-week course in November and thought it was a great experience.
She lives in the mostly Hispanic Berclair area of Memphis and when her neighbors decided to start a Neighborhood Watch group, she became president.
“We have a lot of kids who go to Kingsbury who skip school. They get into drugs and vandalizing property,” she said. “There’s lots a gun fire at night. During the day too, but especially at night.”
Most of the older Hispanic residents who hate what is happening in their neighborhood won’t step up because they don’t want to cause problems and draw attention to themselves. Memphis police told Tomlinson in the Memphis academy that the younger kids steal, get into drugs and start making a lot of money, then they start to turn on themselves.
“They’re like their own little community within our community, and they have their own set of rules,” Tomlinson said.
While she loved her experience with the Memphis academy, the Bartlett one was a big step up.
“It was all class work, nothing hands on except a ride along at the end,” she said. “I was shocked at the difference. I had no idea how different they would be. Bartlett, from Day One we were hands-on.
“I wanted to do the Bartlett academy because I want to move here.”
It was between academies that doctors finally discovered that Tomlinson had a gall bladder that was full of stones. She had emergency surgery in January to have it removed – doctors told her she was a day away from major organ failures and death.
“I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t walk. It was hard to get out of bed. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what,” she said. “My doctor told me I was real close to death. He said he didn’t know how I managed the pain all that time.”
So the Bartlett Police Citizens Academy graduation came at a good time, as she has finally started to fully recovery from her illness and looks for what life offers next.
About Field Day she blogged:
It was the perfect ending to 6 weeks of “hands-on” learning that, at least for me, was life changing in many ways. After 2 years of staying home 24/7, and not really being able to do much of anything, going through sickness, surgery and recovery, this 6 week course was the ultimate kick starter for my year of doing things out in the world again. To top it off, I actually made new friends, both with my classmates and the folks at Bartlett PD, I reignited my love for adventure, and I felt alive again.
“I would definitely tell other people to do it,” she said. “It’s one of the fun-est things you will do. It was a great learning experience, something they can use in their personal lives.”
And it can give perspectives citizens might not otherwise see.
“It’s tough to be a police officer in today’s society. It’s not a profession a lot of people respect,” Wilkinson said.
The Bartlett Police Department followed Kimber’s blog of her academy experience and plans to include some of it in the training manual for future classes.
Kimber said she starts each year with a list of things she wants to do that she has never experienced. She has more to do in 2022, she said. You’ll no doubt be able to follow her adventures on her blog, but the blog will need a PG rating for some readers.
“I love me some Jesus, but I cuss and drink a little,” she says, “and love rockabilly.”
Kimber’s radio show, “Walking in Memphis With Kimber,” can be heard Monday through Friday at noon and 6 p.m., central time, on speedwayradio.us.
She also contributes to every issue of DeVille Magazine, a publication for “all things kustom kulture.”