Click here for Cpl. Matthews' obituary.
The flag outside the Hinesville police station on M.L. King Jr. Drive recently was lowered to half mast by city officials to honor Hinesville police officer and K-9 handler Cpl. Joseph M. Matthews, 50, who died Wednesday from complications following a surgical procedure.
Matthews is described by his former colleagues as a dedicated officer who had been with the department for nearly 10 years. During his time there, he was instrumental in the department’s purchase of Brad, a police tracking dog.
Assistant Police Chief Julian Hodges, who, along with other patrol officers, has been wearing a black mourning band on his badge, said Matthews brought a lot of enthusiasm into setting up the department’s K-9 program and a lot of knowledge from his 21 years as a military police officer.
“We never had a canine program in the department and when officer Matthews proposed it, we felt it was the right time to start the program to assist the officers in the field. He brought a great deal of knowledge with him from his military experience into setting up the program,” Hodges said.
The assistant chief said Matthews was always firm but fair.
“He was a cheerful man who could get along with anybody, but when the situation arose for him to be firm, he would not hesitate,” Hodges said. “He was the type of officer who never hesitated to bring Brad to track an escaped suspect regardless of the time or whether he was on or off duty when called.”
Hodges said Matthews had surgery about six months ago for a growth on his optic nerve, though he could not provide any additional details. After the operation, he slipped in an out of consciousness and grew weaker as the months went by, the assistant chief said. He was considered an active duty officer who was on sick leave thanks to a city program that allows other employees to donate their sick days to cover workers who are out due to a long-term illness.
Hodges said Matthews’ passing did not come as a shock but it has hit the department hard.
“We had several months to prepare for his passing, but it does not make it any easier on us. He will be missed,” he said.
Traffic Accident Investigator Cpl. Les Patton, who served with Matthews in the Army on Fort Stewart, said, “It’s hard to lose a police officer but harder to lose a friend. Up to him having his surgery, you would have never known anything was wrong. He never slowed down. He gave his all up to the day he went into the hospital.”
Matthews’ visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. Monday at Carter Funeral Home Oglethorpe Chapel.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church of Hinesville.