Concerning one Frederick Romero Kimber, what you see and hear is what you get. He’s not shy. No beating around the proverbial bush. He’s a wise one. His wisdom and depth of thought could be missed, for they are part and parcel of this naturally gregarious man.
Everyone calls him “Kimber” within the walls of the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) and beyond. This burly officer is imposing at 6-2. He has 24 years under his belt at KPD and 34 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, with multiple overseas deployments. He is a master sergeant.
Kimber, 52, is a Knoxvillian through and through, reared by his parents on Ashland Avenue in Burlington, three blocks from Austin-East Magnet High School. He went from Fair Garden Elementary to Vine Middle and then to A-E. He graduated in 1987, having made his mark in football, basketball and track. He grew up at Mt. Olive Baptist Church under the late Rev. W.T. Crutcher.
These days he works in the KPD Personnel Department, one of two recruiters looking for new officers. And in these times, recruiting men and women for police jobs is tough work.
On his way to work last Thursday morning he stopped at the City County Building. “Just after I got out of my car, two young girls – maybe late teens or early 20’s I’d say – were walking by and when they saw me they yelled ‘F…. the police’ to me. I just smiled and said good morning to them and I thought to myself, ‘Where in the hell are your parents?’ That’s why we have so many problems. Bad parents or no parents. And the Internet.”
He didn’t down play today’s realities – five Black A-E students shot to death in the last four months – and the racial unrest across the country. “It’s difficult to have this going on in our community, my community where I grew up. It’s hard for officers right now. We’re at a heightened sense of security about everything right now. We do not like to feel that way.”
He added: “We’ve been very lucky in Knoxville. We hear remarks like these two girls made and I pray we won’t have any of the major demonstrations like other places. We let little things divide us. Some of it is racial, but a lot of it is economics. I applaud Mayor (Indya) Kincannon for her push for affordable housing and working with kids’ groups. I still say a lot of this goes back to the parents and where are their kids and are they raising them right and keeping up with their kids. I hope things calm down here, but it may take a while.”
Kimber and wife Debra, who has multiple sclerosis, reared three children – boy/girl twins now 34 and another son, 27. They also enjoy five grandkids. “Hey, I worked a lot. Deborah worked, but we made time for our kids. I’ve coached youth football, baseball, soccer and basketball for my kids, and our kids turned out OK,” he said.
Kimber has been out of town a lot and “out of country” as is said in the military. Four tours in Iraq, plus tours in Somalia, Bosnia and a two-week training assignment in Moscow. His reserve unit is the U.S. Army Materiel Theater Command, Detachment 5, at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. He recently spent time at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, as a trainer for troops about how to find and deal with IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices.
After high school, Kimber had several jobs – at O’Charley’s and UPS, to name two. He also was a security guard at the old St. Mary’s Hospital when he met then KPD Chief Phil Keith, who put the bug in his ear about working at KPD. On January 1996, he took the tests and was hired in January 1997. As an aside, Keith this past January retired as director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), a position he assumed in April 2018.
Kimber has done a lot at KPD – patrol officer, field training officer, tactical squad member, teaching ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) and driving classes for civilians and working at Safety City. When he’s needed now, he’ll leave the personnel office for patrol work.
He is a cheerleader for KPD. “We’ve done things the right way here for a long time now. Great training. Other agencies around the country look up to us. Some people here don’t realize how good we are. Chief Eve (Thomas) stepped in and has done a great job and we’re all behind her, all in for her. I’m proud to be here doing what I can for my community and city.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two. He writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes –for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 865-659-3562.