Law enforcement career runs deep in county deputy’s family
From an early age, Jason Reid can remember the impact his father had on the community as a law enforcement officer.
Whether he and his family were at church, dinner or another public outing, Jason could sense the respect and admiration others had for his father, Coy Reid — currently Catawba County sheriff.
“I noticed when I was young how strangers would approach him,” he said. “He was always self-motivated and did what was right.”
The oldest of three boys, Jason felt the excitement of his father’s law enforcement career and, slowly but surely, began to develop his own passion for the field, never once feeling pressure from family to become a cop.
Jason now serves as head of the Narcotics Unit for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
With Father’s Day fast approaching, he and Coy sat down with the Times-News earlier this month to reflect on their similar career moves and high esteem for each another’s achievements.
Jason started by pointing out how he didn’t immediately enroll in police academy upon graduation from St. Stephens High School, where both he and his father played baseball during their individual school careers.
Instead, he went to work for a private investigator.
After a few years of monotonous tasks that offered him little challenge, Jason enrolled in Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) at Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC), the same program Coy graduated from nearly 30 years earlier in 1977.
At the time, Jason was 26 and needed a career change. He was also ready to make a name for himself, hoping to reach goals his family and community would be proud of.
Upon receiving his BLET certificate and graduating as an official law enforcement officer in 1996, he started his first official cop position with Newton Police Department.
Two years later, Jason transitioned from road patrol to narcotics, again following in the path of his father, who worked undercover drug investigations for the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office during the 1990s.
Coy could still remember the many instances criminals recognized him while working undercover cases.
“I had arrested some of the suspects before (as a patrol officer),” he said.
With his then-handlebar mustache and longer hair, Coy was always able to steer dealers away from the idea he maintained a badge and the power to arrest.
He laughed when recalling the numerous changes in law enforcement and technology he’s witnessed over the course of his 35-year career, specifically the night he used county payphones to call the Catawba County Communications Center for directions to the site of a domestic dispute.
With less than a handful of officers on his shift in those days, Coy often had no backup. The agency now boasts nearly 200 officers and civilians, he said.
The Catawba County sheriff started his career in law enforcement around the same age as Jason, taking a few years between high school graduation and his police career to fulfill both a patriotic duty and establish a business.
After leaving the halls of St. Stephens, Coy first followed a friend into the United States Marine Corps and was shipped straight to Vietnam.
The experience quickly changed him.
“You grow up really fast, particularly in time of war,” he said, “and that was a point in my life when I needed to grow.”
Following two years of military service, Coy returned home to Catawba County where he started the Karate School of Reid & Lail with a friend, Dale Lail.
It was while talking to a student’s father one day that the idea of a law enforcement career intrigued him.
Until then, Coy had never entertained the idea of becoming a cop, he said, but his conversation with the Catawba County deputy prompted him to think seriously about policing.
The agency hired Coy the following week, and after only five days of riding with a captain, he faced the streets alone — all before completing BLET.
“It was strange for sure,” he sure, “because I really didn’t know what I was doing.”
Four months later, Coy commenced CVCC police academy.
Over the years, he worked narcotics and property crimes as a sheriff’s detective.
He also took two years off from law enforcement at one point to serve as a private investigator, he said, but still worked nearly 20 homicide cases in the region as part of the new job.
Even with a hectic career full of criminals and tactical team call-outs, Coy still found time to be a father, including participating in karate competitions with Jason.
The two trained alongside one another at the karate school for 20 years.
Both men boast a black belt in kyokushinkai karate — Jason a fifth-degree black belt and Coy a seventh-degree.
After Coy bowed out from teaching, Jason assumed the role, carrying on the family tradition.
The two additionally trained together outside the karate school, since each participated on Catawba County’s Special Tactical and Response Team (STAR) team, which Coy established in 1997.
The team was the county’s first tactical response group, he said, and with the exception of Hickory Police Department, contained officers from each law enforcement agency in Catawba County.
Jason, employed by Newton Police at the time, immediately joined the team, filling second-in-command duties under his father.
Coy will never forget the bonding experience and memories they shared while participating on STAR.
Together, they responded to an average of 12 to 18 call-outs per year and nearly 120 across a decade, including multiple shooting incidents and other high-energy events involving dangerous felons.
STAR also trained for a 12-hour period each month, completing rigorous physical and tactical training exercises.
The father and son were even featured with the team one year in a national police publication.
While Coy would rather his son had chosen the safer career path of a doctor or lawyer, he commends Jason for his ultimate choice.
“I admire his loyalty, dedication and determination,” Coy said. “He strives hard to be the best at whatever he does.”
While working as a Newton narcotics officer, Jason often risked his life, spending day and night carrying out undercover drug buys and surveillance on some of the city’s most hardcore dealers.
“It was a high-crime, high-drug area,” Jason said.
His career eventually took him to a fellow Catawba County agency, Maiden Police Department, in 2003.
The move was a lateral transfer that again propelled him into the county’s drug community, working the streets simultaneously for a time with the Catawba Valley FBI Drug Task Force.
In 2008, Jason felt compelled to leave the county altogether and breakaway from the hometown that had always referred to him as “Coy’s boy.”
While Coy was sad to see his son leave Catawba County, including the multi-agency STAR team, he understood and supported Jason’s decision to go his own way.
“Jason was one of my better men,” he said, “and I was sad to see him leave.”
While the transition to the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office placed Jason back on the streets as a patrol officer, it wasn’t long before he received his first career promotion in 2009. He also eventually secured a position as team leader of the agency’s Special Response Team (SRT).
As a sergeant, Jason moved back into the environment he not only knew best but also felt the most passionate about — narcotics.
For at least a year, he and his team of fellow interdiction officers with Iredell’s Interdiction Criminal Enforcement (ICE) team, never wavered in their pursuit of drug currency and large-scale drug traffickers, frequently stopping vehicles of criminals carrying cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other illegal substances along major highways I-40 and I-77 to destinations up and down the East Coast.
“I always thought it was a privilege to be on the ICE team,” Jason said, “not a right.”
While he always believed he would eventually retire from Iredell County Sheriff’s Office — due to his success with the agency and fulfillment he felt in his position — a meeting with David Carpenter in 2010 took him by surprise and changed his future path altogether.
At the time, Carpenter was running for Lincoln County sheriff and had heard about Jason’s experience and expertise with multiple area agencies.
Three months before the election, Carpenter sat down with the drug sergeant to seek wisdom and advice on how to keep controlled substances at bay in Lincoln County, should he win the coveted law enforcement title.
During the meeting, Carpenter never mentioned a job opportunity with the Sheriff’s Office, Jason said.
But the future sheriff’s leadership style and genuine, humble attitude grabbed the Iredell sergeant’s attention from the start.
“There are few times in life when you meet people who make a lasting impression on you,” Jason said, “and David Carpenter made one on me. I knew David wanted to make a difference.”
Upon winning the election, Carpenter hired Jason to serve as head of the Narcotics Unit.
Jason immediately accepted the offer.
Carpenter brought Jason in as a lieutenant and even placed him over SWAT.
Election night 2010 proved exciting not only for the current Lincoln County sheriff but also for Jason and Coy — who won the sheriff race in Catawba County.
Jason knew the victory was his father’s life-long goal and the culmination of his career dedication.
According to Coy, his own father predicted his success years earlier, just three months after he entered the police force.
“My dad told me, ‘Son, you’re going to be sheriff one day,’” Coy said.
Unfortunately, his father never lived to see his words come true. He passed away in 1990, Coy said.
At the time of his father’s prediction, Coy considered a sheriff victory unattainable. It wasn’t until he received a promotion to the rank of Catawba County Sheriff’s captain in 2001 that he felt closer to the goal.
While Jason has never worked for his father’s administration or the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office, he has had opportunities over the years, always wanting instead to branch out on his own.
“I didn’t want anybody, including myself, to think that my achievements stemmed from my father’s success rather than my own efforts,” he said. “And working for Carpenter has been the best life decision I’ve ever made.”
Oftentimes, Coy will seek his son’s advice on drug investigations, knowing Jason boasts numerous accolades and honors for his narcotics work.
Awards have included Lincoln County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 30 in Lincolnton and the Special Award of Honor on three separate occasions from the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association (INEOA) for work on federal investigations.
At least three of the drug offenders Jason and fellow narcs have arrested over the last several years have received life sentences.
When necessary, he, too, seeks his father’s wisdom, particularly for questions pertaining to tactical training.
“If I have a tactical decision or training idea, my father is my first phone call,” Jason said. “Many other agencies in the region even call on him for his assistance and expertise, proving his knowledge to be invaluable. He leads from the front, not from behind a desk. He would never ask somebody to do something that he wouldn’t do himself.”
Coy is a 2011 graduate of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association Leadership Institute. He also maintains his Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate, the highest educational achievement for a police officer.
Seeking office for a second term, he’s running unopposed this year.
Uncertain of how long he will remain in the leadership role, Coy said he is taking one year at a time, noting how the experience has never felt like a job to him.
“As long as I’m healthy,” he said. “I’m still enjoying it.”
At age 64, Coy still participates on the STAR team and keeps up with his nine grandchildren on the weekends.
He also has a grandchild on the way, he said.
When the Times-News asked Jason if he had future career plans similar to his father’s, including running for a high-profile sheriff position one day, he smiled but wouldn’t answer.
Coy’s additional two sons, Sean and Cory, also work in law enforcement. Cory serves as a Catawba County patrol deputy while Sean is set to start with his father’s agency in July.