Local News

Briley explains the importance of compassion on the job


The Manning Times is doing a series of stories featuring some of the county’s first responders to get an inside look at the lives of our local heroes. This week, we interviewed Lieutenant Sean Briley of the Manning Police Department.

MT: What inspired you to become a first responder? 

SB: My father is a police officer in Statesboro, Georgia. He retired from law enforcement a couple of years ago, but watching him. And when Elizabeth and I got together, her grandfather and her uncle, so she’s got several family members in law enforcement, and I watched them and that’s kind of what pushed me toward it. Seeing family members and what they do. It’s something different every day and I always get to help people. We enjoy being in and doing things with the community.

MT: Can you describe a particularly memorable call you responded to and how it affected you? 

SB: On the good side, my oldest two kids, Donny and Hope. I actually took them into emergency protective custody. They were nine and 13 and their living conditions were terrible. It was a Friday afternoon and I took them up to DSS right at five o’clock and they were like, we don’t have anywhere to put them. So I said, well, just send him home with me for the weekend and then on Monday, we’ll find out where to get them. I called Liz on the way home and she had just gotten home from work. I told her I was on the way home with two kids and she asked what they needed. They only had a couple of trash bags, so she said to meet her at Wal-Mart. That was 16, 17 years ago. Monday rolled around and just kept rolling.

MT: How do you cope with all the stress and trauma that come with being a first responder?

SB: Prayer. Church. Family.

MT: Have you ever had to make a difficult decision on the job? How do you handle it? 

SB: Oh, we make a lot of difficult decisions. I don’t know if there’s really a way to handle it because most of them are split second. So, you make a decision and then you just deal with whatever the consequences are, whether good or bad. You just deal with it afterwards, right? So difficult? Yeah. I mean, all the time.

MT: What is something you wish more people knew about the job? 

SB: I wish more people understood the laws better. Sometimes you go places and they think you’re not trying to help them or don’t want to help them. The laws limit a lot of what we do so just to be able to just understand the laws better.

MT: How has your job as a first responder impacted your perspective on life and your personal values?

SB: I don’t know that its changed my personal values. There's a lot that people have no idea what goes on, right? And I think if people really knew what happened on a daily basis, they’d probably appreciate first responders a little more. So, I guess the biggest part is after 18 years, nothing surprises me anymore. But [when] you first come in, you’re like, “wow, this happens every day, all day?”

MT: How do you build trust and get people to cooperate in crisis situations?

SB: Just simply treat people fairly. You don’t have to tell people what they want to hear. Tell them the truth and be fair and compassionate.

MT: What do you think are the qualities needed to be a first responder?

SB:Honesty, trust, and compassion. Not needing sleep. Coffee, coffee. An understanding family. That’s important. The divorce rate for first responders is very high. I would imagine a lot of because of the hours and the stress.

MT: What can we do as citizens to help the community and first responders?

SB: I think we’ve got to find a mutual respect. We’ve got to do a good job of hiring people with respect and sense of community. I think the community needs to understand that 99% of law enforcement love them. They want to do what’s good for them. They want to help them. No offense to the media by any means, but a lot of your media want to pursue your law enforcement off of one video of one bad police officer for one incident that happened that day. Thousands of good incidents with law enforcement happened that same day that we’re not focusing on, right? So, I think just understanding that 99% of your law enforcement love you and want to do what they can to help you. And don’t [judge] based off that one bad video that you saw online or that you saw in the media, because, obviously, that’s what they’re trying to do. It draws attention. But if you want to see a hundred good videos from the day, come to my office and I’ll show them to you.