STP Father-Son Duo Reflect on How Their Dads Shaped Their Desire to Serve

June 17, 2024

By SCDPS Staff Member, Teddy Kulmala

With three generations of law enforcement officers in their family, serving others is not learned for State Transport Police Master Officer Thomas Thrasher and his son, Officer Peyton Thrasher. It’s a family value.

“Our family is a working-class family,” said Peyton Thrasher. “There’s no doctors or lawyers. My grandpa was in law enforcement. My dad’s in law enforcement. My younger brother is in the Army. My mom was a nurse. No one’s had a safe job.”

Thomas Thrasher’s father was a utility lineman and then a sheriff’s deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office after serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.

“When he was at the sheriff’s office, I remember him coming home late at night to change clothes because his uniform was cut up or covered in blood. The deputy he was riding with would be waiting in the driveway. My dad would come in and say, ‘Yeah, I had a bad night.’ He would change his clothes, get back in the car, and finish the rest of his shift.”

Seeing his dad serving others in uniform inspired Thomas Thrasher to later join the same sheriff’s office, but he soon learned that he enjoyed working traffic enforcement more than domestic violence, assault, or robbery calls for service. That led him to the South Carolina Highway Patrol for 19 years, which included 10 years on the Motor Unit as a motorcycle trooper. During his last four years as a trooper, the work schedule for the Highway Patrol allowed him to work as a long-haul truck driver on his days off. After his retirement in 2016, he began driving full time and logged close to one-million miles in 10 years.

But in 2023, when Thomas Thrasher saw the Department of Public Safety was hiring back retirees, he decided to return to DPS. This time as a State Transport Police officer.

“I thought I would marry the two things that I spent most of my time doing: Working in transportation and working in law enforcement,” he said of joining STP. “I’m not young anymore, but I don’t consider myself old yet. I’m in that in-between, so I have some good working years left in me.”

And he wanted to spend some of those working years with his son. Peyton Thrasher, who joined STP a year earlier in 2022, said his desire to become an officer started at a young age with his dad dropping by his baseball practices on his Highway Patrol motorcycle during his meal break.

“He would always pull up and sit out in the outfield on his motorcycle when we were at practice,” the younger Thrasher said. “We all used to think it was the coolest thing.”

STP appealed to Peyton Thrasher because of its specialized training, the ability to be proactive in enforcement, and the latitude granted to officers.

“It’s just a niche thing in law enforcement,” Peyton Thrasher said of STP. “We can do your standard traffic enforcement on non-commercial vehicles, but we’re the only ones in the state that can actually enforce the federal regulations for commercial motor vehicles. That really intrigued me.”

For Peyton, satisfaction from the job comes from mutual respect that is given and received during his interactions with drivers.

“You might give someone three or four tickets, and at the end of it, they’ll say, ‘Thank you for treating me with respect. I’m doing my job, and I realize you’re doing your job,’” he said. “That’s one of the things I find rewarding. When there is mutual respect.”

For Thomas Thrasher, taking a dangerous truck or a fatigued driver off the road gives him the same satisfaction as taking an impaired driver off the road as a trooper.

“I knew that there was something there — I made an impact immediately,” he said. “The road was different.”

Thomas Thrasher isn’t surprised Peyton followed in his footsteps. But he is humbled.

“He got to see a lot of the not-so-good stuff, like having to work holidays or nights,” he said. “But he decided to go with it anyway. It does make me think that, at some point, maybe I did do some things right, and he wanted to follow that.”

Peyton Thrasher says despite the challenges of the job, his father was a great role model for how to handle those and balance them with his responsibility to his family.

“I never remember him calling in sick or coming home disgruntled,” he said. “I’m sure he was at some point, but I never saw it. He worked 40-plus hours a week. He worked weekends. But he showed up to work and provided for his family.”

Despite the father and son due working full time in the same Upstate region, sometimes they may not see each other for days at a time. They do, however, get to hear each other’s voice on the radio every day.

“Occasionally we work together. I can see how he handles himself,” Thomas Thrasher said. “I can’t tell him he does a good job,” he says with a smirk. “I probably should tell him more often that I’m proud of him, because I am.”

Thomas Thrasher recalls about the time he worked with his dad for a few years and the irreplaceable memories he has because of that experience.

“I will always be grateful for that,” he said. “I was hoping when I came back (to DPS) that it would be something similar with Peyton and me. I got to work with my dad. Peyton’s getting to work with his dad. It’s full circle.”