Twenty-six and a half years ago, Captain Jeff Warnke was a fairly new police officer with the Cullman Police Department. Jeff and his wife Laura wanted to have a child, but unfortunately, they couldn’t get pregnant. Shortly before becoming a police officer in Cullman, Jeff and his wife started looking at their options and were able to find an adoption agency they felt they could work with and would provide them with the perfect child. The adoption process took about a year and a half to complete, but as a rookie police officer, Jeff Warnke became a rookie father.
Because of the adoption being in Florida, there were some minor holdbacks, but eventually, Jeff and Laura received the news that the adoption process was complete and they could come to pick up their daughter. So, the two packed up their needs and drove to Gainsville, Florida, immediately and were finally able to bring that perfect child back to Cullman, Alabama.
Four and a half-week-old Brinlee Warnke was welcomed with open arms when she arrived in Cullman. She had a family that extended far past Laura and Jeff’s immediate family. She also had a large family waiting on her at the Cullman Police Department. The policing business was new for Jeff, but he became family as soon as he received his badge, just like any other officer in the industry. Officers rearranged their schedules to ensure Officer Warnke could be there to help take care of his new baby girl.
Brinlee grew up and went to school in Cullman. She spent her life around law enforcement. Laura would often drop her off at school, and Jeff would pick her up in his patrol car. Jeff would take her by the police station, and often she would hang out with her police family for hours while her dad was working. The entire police force and administration did whatever it took to ensure Brinlee was safe and loved.
Growing up, Jeff and Laura thought their daughter would be a veterinarian, but Brinlee had other plans on her mind. Fast forward nineteen years later, when Brinlee became family to the Cullman Police Department, and now she is a part of the work-family in a more significant role.
When Brinlee started school here in Cullman, she had a passion for helping others. If she saw someone getting picked on, she would gravitate to help them. If someone was hurt, she wanted to help and be there for them. It was in her non-biological blood to help others. Brinlee had a calling that would lead her to where she is today as a dispatcher for the Cullman Police Department.
How is it possible for a father and daughter to work together in the police business? How can they train their minds to focus on the job at hand and not be influenced by the natural father/daughter bond? How do you turn that mindset off when you show up to work in an already dangerous business? So many questions could go through your mind when your father is on the police force that you want to work alongside. The same could be said for Jeff when he found out Brinlee wished to become a dispatcher.
“I love being an emergency responder,” Brinlee said. “I have worked hard over the years and did so on my merit. I knew coming into this business, and my father was a Seargent with the department, it was possible someone would think I got the job or receive special treatment because of him, but that is simply not the case.” Now, Captain Jeff Warnke said that when he found out Brinlee had graded high on the dispatcher test and the department was hiring her, he made it clear to leave him out of the process and let it be based on her merit. “Brinlee is strong-willed, and there was no doubt she would be an excellent emergency responder. So when I was approached about the possibility of her being hired, I didn’t want them to hire her based on me being her dad; I wanted it to be because of her merit.”
The two have worked great together over the years. There has been one instance where Brinlee thought her dad was involved in a crash, but when most people would be alarmed, she knew she had to stay calm and do the job at hand. “I was nervous because I thought at the time that it was dad. Fortunately, it was not him, but I knew I had to continue doing my job professionally either way.” Brinlee went on to say, “The Cullman Police Department is like my family. When I go to work, my top priority is to make sure that everyone goes home safely. I take my job extremely seriously, and you can never let your guard down in this business.”
In the future, Brinlee wants to further follow in her father’s footsteps and become a patrol officer. “I am a driven person, and I enjoy helping others. Being a dispatcher is rewarding, and I am fortunate to see a lot of great things that happen behind the scene, but I also know I want to be on the streets patrolling and keeping citizens safe.” As a father, you would certainly worry about your child going into law enforcement. Captain Warnke said, “My mother was nervous when I chose law enforcement as my career. I feel Brinlee is much safer as a dispatcher, but I know she eventually wants to become a patrol officer. When that day comes, I will have that same nervous feeling my mother had, but I will undoubtedly be proud of her and her accomplishments.” As for Brinlee, she said, “I love my dad, and I am proud of his accomplishments over the years. I have been here while he was Seargent, Lieutenant, and now Captian. I love him tremendously and want to make him proud.”
There are times in life when the odds are stacked against you, and for Laura and Jeff, the odds were stacked high when they found out they couldn’t get pregnant. However, a father/daughter bond doesn’t always have to come conventionally. Brinlee and Jeff Warnke may not share the same bloodline, but they indeed share the same passion for helping others through the ‘Thin Blue Line.’