While Jason Rountree never envisioned being a police officer, there is no place the Live Oak Police lieutenant would rather be.
It wasn’t a childhood dream for Rountree.
And when former Live Oak Police Chief Nolan McLeod asked him to consider the job, Rountree initially laughed at the thought.
“It was weird,” Rountree said of heading to the police academy three days after McLeod first asked him to consider the career. “I never ever as a little boy. Most little kids, ‘Oh, I want to be a police officer.’ It wasn’t something, it’s not that I didn’t want to, it just wasn’t in my realm of thinking.”
But it didn’t take Rountree long to realize that McLeod was right.
He made a verbal agreement to spend two years with the LOPD and didn’t look back once he began in June 2001.
He still doesn’t.
“I never guessed this is where I was supposed to be, I just knew after that,” he said. “Getting in the academy and after the academy, looking back, I just knew this is where I was supposed to be.
“It’s been fun. It’s been a good trip.”
Still, Rountree admits there are times when he questions why he continues in his role at the LOPD, especially at a time when not everybody has a positive view of law enforcement, particularly nationwide.
But those questions are pushed aside when the 18-year veteran takes a larger view of his career.
“I’m definitely here because God selected me to be here,” he said adding that being an officer has led to incredible friendships that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. “I truly believe that in no weird way. I think I can see every day that I’m where I’m supposed to be at. And if I ever took the bait of those days where it’s like why I am still doing this and stop doing it, it would be pretty quick that I would look back and really miss it.”
Promoted to lieutenant at the LOPD last summer, Rountree said the transition to the new role is still ongoing. He continues to be involved on the investigation side, even as he begins taking the reins of serving as patrol lieutenant.
It’s made for a few busy months, but also an opportunity for him to continue to grow.
“It’s a learning curve,” he said. “Anytime you step into a new position, you’re gleaning from whoever was before you but bringing your own ideas in.
“Learning along the way and making mistakes that I’m allowed to make while administration keeps a close enough eye to make sure they’re not major ones.”
One aspect that Rountree will be focused on is trying to make all the officers underneath him feel at home, as part of the LOPD family.
That, too, he said, comes with a learning curve as there has to be discipline while also trying to make everybody feel comfortable and at ease.
But as someone who is grateful for the support of the community for so long, Rountree wants to pass that along. Especially in a community that Rountree said still rallies around its law enforcement and first responders.
“We all mourn the train wreck, but not one of us doesn’t twist our neck to look at it as we go by,” he said. “It fascinates us. I think overall in our country, that has been the major impact on the outlook on police. While the percentage of police that do bad things is infinitely small, they capture the nation’s attention because they’re the train wreck.
“What’s been fascinating to see in this community is because we have a community that, at least at large, is very supportive of its military and police heroes, they’ve taken a completely objective stance to that and said, ‘No, we lift our heroes up.’”