Alto police officer Michael Tanksley laid to rest

Alto Police Chief Josh Ivey recieves Tanksley's burial flag, which he then gave to Tanksley's family in an emotional moment to remember his service. (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

Michael Tanksley served nearly two decades in law enforcement and, ultimately, it was his service and commitment to duty that led to this death.

The 40-year-old father of two passed away on October 8 from complications of COVID after contracting the disease in the line of duty. On October 13, dozens of law enforcement officers from his home department in Alto and surrounding communities attended his funeral for a final farewell.

Alto Police Chief Josh Ivey says he first met Tanksley about thirteen years ago on a license check detail when Tanklsey was an officer in Dillard. Tanksley eventually left the Dillard PD and went to work for Ivey in Alto. They spent the last two years of Tanksley’s law enforcement career as colleagues.

Alto Police Chief Josh Ivey recalls fond memories of working with Corp. Michael Tanksley during the officer’s funeral on Oct. 13, 2021, in Baldwin. (livestream image Whitfield Funeral Home)

“If you knew him, you loved him,” Chief Ivey told those gathered for Corporal Tanksley’s funeral Wednesday in Baldwin. He remembered the laughter and pranks that they shared and Tanksley’s compassion on the job.

Ivey recalled how Tanksley took a special interest in car seat safety, often helping parents he stopped learn how to install them correctly and making car seats available to those who didn’t have them.

“He’d pull people over and talk to them and tell them, ‘Come by the office tomorrow and let us educate you and we’ll dismiss the ticket.'”

“People were just so thankful, not so much because the ticket got dismissed, it was a $15 ticket, it was more because he was able to show them how to make their kid safer,” Ivey said. “I can’t remember the last time [in traffic court] somebody didn’t come and say, ‘You know, I want to tell you, with everything going on in the world today, your officer was really nice.’ And he was just that kind of person — not just that kind of officer — he was that kind of person.”

Officer Michael Tanksley

Known to the locals in Alto as Officer Mike, Tanksley spent the last two years of his 19-year law enforcement career with Alto PD. He was named the department’s officer of the year in 2019.

“We need more Michaels,” said the Rev. Terry Rice at Tanksley’s funeral during which he acknowledged the pandemic that has claimed many officers’ lives.

“This whole COVID mess is horrible and the side effects of it but, you see, in heaven, there will be no disease, there will be no sickness. I pray that you won’t let it make you bitter but better; and if you’re better, then he lives on in and through you.”

Following the service, police officers from multiple jurisdictions, including Dillard, escorted Corporal Tanksley’s body from Whitfield Funeral Home in Baldwin to Yonah Cemetery in Demorest where he was buried with full police honors.

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