Owensboro Man with Down Syndrome Becomes Pioneer in Kentucky Law Enforcement
Using the word “disability” in reference to Owensboro’s Jeff Rhinerson would be an incredible disservice to him and those who love and celebrate him. There’s no doubt that, through his life, Jeff has turned his “disability” into “ability” and he continues to add to his growing and impressive list of accomplishments.
Jeff, who has Down syndrome and embraces it wholeheartedly, became a pioneer in Kentucky law enforcement today. He was officially sworn into his brand new job with the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office. Jeff will serve the community as a Court Security Assistant at the Holbrook Judicial Center in downtown Owensboro.
Daviess County Sheriff Brad Youngman says, “’I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity to bring Jeff onto our team. Having known Jeff for years, this is a great way to increase our ranks with people who truly care about our community and have a strong desire to serve others.”
Jeff, through Puzzle Pieces’ Employment Opportunities, has most recently been greeting and working with customers at Old National Bank. His last day there was yesterday and now Jeff is setting his sights on a challenging and rewarding new job post that offers him the chance to earn a competitive wage and to broaden his customer service skills and commitment to community. Court Security Officers help maintain the safety and security of the Judicial Center. It’s quite possible you’ll see Jeff asking guests to place their belongings in trays before advancing through security screening, in the courtroom announcing a judge’s entrance, or patrolling the hallways with a CSO partner to assist the public.
Jeff will be part of Sergeant Phil Ashby's team and will always be working alongside a Certified Court Security Officer. While he won’t be authorized to serve warrants, make arrests, or carry a firearm, he will be on hand to provide valuable assistance to the Court Security Officers who do perform those duties. Sheriff Youngman adds, “Jeff has a passion for helping people and has always been interested in law enforcement. This is a great opportunity for both of us.”
Kitty Jones, who serves as Director of Employment Opportunities at Puzzle Pieces, says, “This is a big step toward inclusion in our community with him being on the forefront of our judicial system and working for the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office.”
Family members and friends were on hand for Jeff’s official swearing in earlier today at the Daviess County Courthouse. That swearing in was conducted by Daviess County Judge Executive Charlie Castlen.
As important and impactful as the ceremony was, Jeff was still being Jeff- endearing, hilarious and, slightly demanding. Guests included Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen, who was asked by Jeff, to wear a ball gown to the proceedings. He even bought her a pair of earrings to mark the special occasion.
He also asked, quite hysterically, to be transported to the courthouse in a limousine. As you can imagine, that particular wish wasn’t granted.
In preparation for his big day, I called Jeff to see what he wanted to share with the public about his new role and he quickly responded, “Oh good grief!” He then insisted he would think about it and call me back. Within about ten minutes, he did. Jeff admitted some nerves, but assured me that he’s very excited about the new job and how “the community can work together.”
In addition to his new role as a Court Security Assistant with the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, Jeff will continue to host his weekly Facebook Live series called Live with Jeff, which broadcasts from his studio inside Townsquare Media Owensboro’s offices on Frederica Street. In that series, Jeff interviews a variety of city officials, nonprofit leaders and community movers and shakers. It’s yet another way in which Jeff has turned that “disability” into “ability.” And, now, Jeff steps into an entirely new world and role to be an even stronger example of how inclusion makes our community stronger.
While there may not be a new sheriff in town, our sheriff’s got a brand new right hand man. On Thursday, December 21st, Deputy Rhinerson will be ready to report for duty.
A big thanks to Owensboro Times for capturing Jeff's swearing-in ceremony Friday. Check it out here:
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