Darrell Whitfield: Driven by Passion for his Customers’ Success

When 19-year-old Darrell Whitfield started thinking about a career, law enforcement was not on his radar. But due to family ties to the police world, he was provided a glimpse into the world of law enforcement, and Darrell liked what he saw. “I was young and dumb and just kind of floating there for a while,” he says with a distinctive southern accent. He decided to give it at least five years and then reassess. “My five years turned into 27, and I never looked back.”

A Fulfilling Career

Darrell Whitfield

When Darrell became a sworn officer with the Chattanooga Police Department, the socially adept 22-year-old hit the streets working undercover narcotics and vice. As his cases reached court, he was pulled out from undercover and sent to police academy.

Graduation was followed by eight years as a patrol officer. Even though most of his “good ol’ days” stories are from his patrol days, Darrell eventually became restless. “As a patrol guy, unless it was smaller crimes, we had to hand the case off to a detective,” he says. “I was tired of starting an investigation, getting excited about it and then having to hand it off to somebody else. I wanted to follow through—to be working the investigation.”

Darrell found what he was looking for in the Crime Scene Unit. After several years as an investigator, he was promoted to sergeant in charge of the unit. Shortly afterward, Darrell advanced to lieutenant over the Major Crimes Unit. “The most fulfilling thing for me—and this is going to sound cliche, but it’s the truth—was knowing that I had a hand in bringing justice to a suspect,” he says. “As a crime scene investigator, I didn’t care what the evidence showed. Evidence is neutral in my opinion. It was my job to collect it properly, document it properly and get it presented into court properly so that somebody else could draw those conclusions.”

As retirement drew near, Darrell transferred to the newly formed Hamilton County Chattanooga Family Justice Center where victims of domestic violence receive the collaborative support of public- and private-sector professionals from multiple disciplines. Over the next several months, Darrell helped get the center’s Special Victims Unit up and running. “After about a year, the unit was in a good spot,” he says, “and I  just felt like, in my heart of hearts, it was time to go.”

Advancing as a Unit

Darrell is grateful for the opportunities he had to professionalize procedures, upgrade technology and provide quality equipment so his colleagues could perform their jobs to the best of their ability. “Bringing the Crime Scene Unit out of the 1950s and into the 21st century—that’s what brings me the most satisfaction,” he says.

After Darrell attended the University of Tennessee’s inaugural National Forensic Academy in 2001, he used the 10-week intensive training program to standardize evidence identification, collection and preservation procedures. “I created a crime scene manual for our unit to help lay out standards,” he says. “It wasn’t just me, but it was one of the things I spearheaded to make the unit stronger.”

As Darrell advanced in rank, he also advanced and modernized the unit’s equipment and technology. “One of the first things I did when I was promoted to sergeant was to bring us out of the film world and into the digital camera world,” he says. He later replaced their worn, ill-suited vehicles with a fleet of trucks. “The pickups had truck-bed storage systems where they could store all their equipment and evidence,” he says. “They loved those trucks.”

But the most scientifically significant transition was from tape measures to state-of-the-art laser scanning technology. “What we were capturing with our Leica ScanStations was so much better than holding a tape measure. With hand measurements, the human factor always comes into play, which can put you off a little bit. But with a scanner, we’re talking millimeter accuracy. Bang! You’re right on it! Having the quality of measurements that we didn’t have before was just amazing,” he says. “And our end product—a 3D image of that crime scene—was tremendously a whole lot better than the hand-drawn diagrams we’d done before.”

When Darrell retired in 2016, he was happy with the changes he left behind. “I feel I left the unit a whole lot better off than I found it,” Darrell says. “It wasn’t just me. It took a lot of effort from a lot of people. But being a sergeant over the unit and then the lieutenant over the unit, I took a lot of personal pride in that.”

A New Way to Serve

As U.S. East account manager for Leica Geosystems’ Public Safety Group, equipping  his former colleagues with the technology they need is not just Darrell’s job. It’s his passion. “I love cops, and I love laser scanning,” he says. “And this job marries both of them for me.”

Today, Darrell dedicates his years of experience to helping other public safety agencies transition to state of-the-art 3D laser scanning devices or one of Leica’s other professional-grade mapping technologies. He enjoys working closely with each agency to understand their workflow and how to achieve their objectives. “I’ve been there in the heat of battle when it all goes to heck just like they have been and are going to be again,” he says. “I’ve been there with a scanner. I know how the workflow was and how I would’ve liked for it to go. And now I can present our customers with a solution for that.”

Darrell’s transition from law enforcement to Leica Geosystems has been good. Yes, he misses the camaraderie he shared with his colleagues at the Chattanooga Police Department, but he enjoys building new relationships with Leica’s public safety contacts and customers in his territory. “I absolutely love working with our customers,” he says. “They’re just great people. And who doesn’t like hanging around great people?”

Connect with Darrell on LinkedIn.

RECENT SOCIAL POSTS FROM DARRELL WHITFIELD


Interesting Data Points:

  • While scanning the aftermath of the 2015 U.S. Navy Reserve center terrorist attack, Darrell unknowingly yelled at a three-star general and his entourage who walked into his scan. “About 40 seconds into the yell, I realized, ‘Oh, you have done it now.’ So I walked up to the group with my head hung low and apologized for all I was worth. To his credit, the three-star general said, ‘No problem. We understand. We apologize for walking in the middle of your scene.’ A couple days later, one of my crime scene guys said, ‘Darrell, you know that was General (name omitted). He’s one of those old Vietnam-era generals. He could have killed you with his pinkie and never batted an eye.’ So I always joke, ‘I yelled at a three-star general and lived to tell about it.’”
  • Former adjunct instructor for the Institute of Police Technology and Management
  • Self-described jack of all trades, master of none
  • Likes to laugh and joke around
  • Enjoys playing the guitar (even while on business calls)
  • Enjoys flounder gigging with old friends
  • University of North Carolina Tarheel fan(atic)
  • Likes weekend escapes to the mountains with his family
  • Plays video games into the wee hours of the morning
  • Loves to barbeque and is a member of the Meat Militia BBQ competition team. Sadly, several years ago, a lone star tick bite, which introduced the alpha-gal sugar molecule into his system, has made him allergic to red meat
  • When asked how a close friend might describe him in one word, Darrell says, “Laidback. I’m mostly easy going. I’m easy to get along with and can fit into any crowd.”
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