Family tradition: Grandmother, son, grandson vow to protect and serve

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For one family, joining Memphis Police Department is becoming a family tradition.

Dennis McNeil Jr., who goes by DJ, is a former Briarcrest Christian School and U.T. Martin football player.

Despite all his success on the football field, there's one man who's always given him a run for his money: his father.

"He's 50 years old, and he can still run and can still beat me in a foot race," DJ said.

DJ's father, Dennis McNeil Sr., has been with Memphis Police Department for 28 years.

DJ said he's always wanted to be like his father.

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"I idolized him. I don't know if he knows how much, but from the way he walked, the way he talked--I wanted to be like him," DJ said. "I wanted to be everything he was. He was the coolest dude in the world to me."

Now, DJ is following through with his plan to be just like his father. At the age of 25, DJ is patrolling the same beat his father patrolled nearly three decades ago.

However, following in footsteps didn't start with DJ. McNeil joined the force because his mother was a dedicated officer.

Vertie McNeil served with MPD for more than 20 years. She retired just before her grandson became an officer.

"My grandmother paved the way," DJ said.

"I'm pretty sure he [DJ] is going to carry on the tradition that my mom started," McNeil said.

McNeil said he's seen the best and worst of policing, and as a father, he wasn't always a fan of his son's decision.

"What we get from being public servants is not always what we should get. This is not a job, it is a profession and it is dangerous," McNeil said. "We had a lot of issues at that time, and I did not want him to come into something that was not a solid foundation."

With his father and grandmother as role models, DJ's future as a police officer would not be swayed by some bad headlines, because policing is in his blood.

In addition to his normal duties as an officer, DJ is also active on MPD's football team. He helped lead the team to its first gold medal during a competition in Las Vegas. He's also a part of Memphis Police Sports Federation, where he and his father coach children across the city.

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