Jasmine Deshea Reed’s deck of cards was stacked against her before her birth 28 years ago. Looking back, she defines survival now. She defies failure. You hear her story … and you shake your head. Perhaps a string of words will come to mind. How did she survive this? No way! Incredible! Impossible! For real?
You’ve probably never heard of her. And now that you have, forgetting her will be very difficult. She’s in her third year as a patrol officer for the Knoxville Police Department (KPD), a Police Academy graduate of September 2020. She “stands” tall – all 61-inches of her. That translates to 5-feet, 1 inch. Or as she calls it – “tactically small.”
Here’s a look at the cards she was dealt:
- Born to a drug-addicted, abusive and mentally ill mother, which, of course, left her a druggie baby, a little girl in Anderson County who shook throughout elementary school with withdrawal trembles that would come and go.
- An only child, beaten by her mother, mentally abused and burned with cigarettes as discipline. She was 18 when her mother died. She skipped the funeral.
- An alcoholic father, in and out of jails, with a long criminal history. Her father is alive, she says, adding, “He has straightened himself out and isn’t on drugs and alcohol now. He minds his own business and stays out of trouble. I see him pretty regularly.”
- Not one role model in her life until 9-11. We’ll get back to that one.
- Thankfully removed from her mother by the Department of Children’s Services at age 7, then reared by grandparents. Thank God for grandparents!
Her life today isn’t without struggles. Reed is divorced, a single mother raising three little girls – ages 9, 8 and 5. Her second full-time job. Life lessons learned are part of her parenting skills.
Born in Dutch Valley, she graduated from Clinton High School in 2013, was in the Air Force Junior ROTC, played on the softball team and was a member of FFA (Future Farmers of America). Good times that she enjoyed.
Reed is still a member of the church she was raised in – Valley View Missionary Baptist Church in Dutch Valley. Her grandparents – who became her parents – are there. Her grandfather, Horace Pratt, is the church’s head deacon and grandmother is Judy Pratt. Reed even sings in the choir when needed.
“God is the only reason I’m still here and I know that. And my grandparents. They were really strict. Everything I went through is what conditioned me to be a better mother, person and police officer. I didn’t understand it all back then. I’d cry a lot and wonder and ask why I’m not like all the normal kids with families.”
She is able to carve out a little time for herself. Daily kick boxing coupled with Brazilian jiu-jitsu helps with her stresses. Four wheelin’ is lifelong fun for her. She loves the quiet and stillness of turkey hunting.
There’s a drive to this woman – a drive to admire. With a full plate already, she will graduate from Bethel University in May 2024, with honors, and with a degree in criminal justice. Three kids, a big job and studying at night. A goal is to join the KPD Drug Interdiction Team. She was honored as Officer of the Month not long ago for helping a young mother and her kids through the holidays. She was selected to be part of the KPD Honor Guard.
Let’s revisit 9-11. She said she had no role models growing up. She found them on TV. “9-11 had a big impact on me even though I was only 7 when it happened,” she remembers. “I watched it on TV. I was in the first grade, the same year I moved in with my grandparents. When I saw those cops running and rolling to help and save people, they became my role models. I’ve never forgotten them and that led me into law enforcement.”
Her patrol areas have included the West district – Cedar Bluff to Sutherland Avenue and to Western Heights, Clinton Highway and the University of Tennessee area. In October 2022 she was reassigned to the new KPD Central District, which includes downtown Knoxville and South Knoxville. A big part of her “beat” today is Montgomery Village, the KCDC housing assistance community of some 380 apartment units at 405 Joe Lewis Rd.
Montgomery Village is well known to officers and others for crime and gangs. Reed says she and her partner, Officer Jason Lay, spend the majority of their patrol time in the Village – days and nights. “There are lots of kids living there with no role models and I can relate to them. Not all police are bad and people there have bad interactions with police … fights and overdoses. The kids develop negative images and opinions and I’m hanging out with them now, playing ball with them and we talk. I’m there to help and they know that. I’m working hard to be the role model for them I never had. There are a lot of 5-year-olds there without parents.”
Scott Erland, KPD’s public information officer, has heard about her work. “She has really done a great job of making connections and building community relationships in the Montgomery Village area, in particular,” he said.
From where life began for her until today, her story is riveting. She says she’s happy, living and loving life to the fullest.
“My job … it’s the best job in the world. I can’t believe they pay me to do this. It’s been such a perfect fit. I made the right choice,” she says.
“Every aspect of the job is pretty cool. Even the bad and tough parts teach you so much.”
And this from her compassionate heart. “When we’re downtown on the streets, you learn from the people. I learn from the homeless. It’s humbling. We need to understand that we’re all only one bad circumstance from being under that bridge with them. This job is making me hungry for more,” she added.
She grew up without a mother. “I’ll spend the rest of my life being the best Mom that I can be. When I put my uniform on, I am reminded that I get to live my dream every single day, so to say I’m blessed is an understatement. Life really is what you make it, and for me it’s pretty awesome!”
Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.