Former Olympic gymnast now a police officer

Monday, June 21, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:20 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

RAYMORE — Three Raymore girls stop their bikes and wildly wave as Terin Humphrey drives by. Giving her fans a smile, Humphrey waves back.

She is practiced at this.

Those waves are not because of what she once did, but what she does today.

She used to strut the balance beam in a leotard on international television; now she helps folks walk the straight and narrow, with a Sig Sauer .40-caliber semi-automatic on one hip and stun gun on the other. The former gymnast, who holds two Olympic silver medals from Athens in 2004, now wears a silver badge.

"Yeah," she said with a grin. "I need the excitement."

Having graduated last month from the police academy, she is on the force in Raymore, pulling 12-hour shifts, learning how to handle calls, writing reports and calming agitated suspects.

"Years ago people used to think the bigger the better, but that's not the case anymore," Chief Kris Turnbow said. "The No. 1 tool an officer uses is their ability to communicate."

Humphrey, 5 feet, 110 pounds and wearing specially tailored uniform pants because they don't carry her size, zero, agrees.

"As long as you act like you're in charge, that you know what you're doing, they're not going to cause you any problems," she said.

Officers joke that the rookie has an extra weapon — one that is not on her utility belt.

"They tell me, 'If someone starts to give you trouble, you can just do a flip over him,'" she said.

The idea of Humphrey being a cop still baffles some.

"People look at us like, 'She's what?'" said her father, Steve Humphrey, who admitted being "definitely shocked" when she explained her plans.

Others have tried to nudge her in a different direction.

Open a gym, they have told the Olympic medalist. Make some money. Train other girls to follow in her footsteps.

To this, Humphrey pursed her lips and emphatically shook her head no. It's the burned-out look.

For more than 20 years she twisted and tumbled, flew through the air, stuck hard landings and missed a few. She started training at 9, competed in the Olympics three months after high school and then joined the University of Alabama team.

She even has a balance beam move named after her.

"It was fun, but my body's worn out," she said.

After four surgeries on her elbows and hip and back problems, she worried they could interfere with her hopes.

Ever since being glued to "NYPD Blue" as a kid, she has gravitated toward law enforcement, first considering the idea of being a lawyer, then rejecting it because it meant more years in school.

She toyed with forensics, even took a job. Too sedentary.

"I thought, 'You know, I need to get out in the field instead of sitting behind the microscope,'" Humphrey said.

So, it was the police academy, where her older brother, Shannon, had gone.

Her size and old injuries were not an issue. She ended up first in her class for the physical training part of the academy. Humphrey completed 105 push-ups in a minute, 13 more than the person just below her.

"My brother did 108," she says. "I was so mad."

Shannon, 25, a Blue Springs officer, holds the push-up record at the academy.

She also ended up with the second most sit-ups in her class — 67 in a minute. A classmate did 72.

Not only did she perform well, she grew, said Raymore Detective Don Shepard, her PT instructor. She started out at 53 push-ups on the second day. She also shaved more than a minute off her 1½-mile time.

"To me, the size of her may not seem very intimidating to someone," Steve Humphrey said. "But once they know what she's capable of, that's a different story."

Many cities have claimed her. She got the key to Bates City, where she lived for a while. Odessa, where she graduated from high school, threw a parade. Blue Springs, home of the gym where she trained, is where many people figured she was from.

But when it came to settling into a job, she chose Raymore, a suburb of nearly 20,000 residents. For one, it's a growing community. For another, the department was willing to give her time off for her role as an athlete representative who will help choose the women for the next Olympic team in 2012.

"Now, I can go and watch and not compete," Humphrey said.

In July, she will go to a meet in Chicago. The next month, she will be in Connecticut. Between those meets, she will be back on the street in field training, a first step in her ultimate goal of being a detective.

On this seventh day as an officer in training, she has already been to a vandalism call and another for a suspicious device. Every hour, she is learning something new.

Not yet as confident, maybe, as she was on the mat or on the beam and definitely not as confident as she was on the uneven bars, her best event, but she'll get there.

"It was a good experience," she said of gymnastics. "Not too many people can say they did that.

"Now I want to do this."

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