By Robert Burns, Staff Writer
A student is late for class, rushing down Oates Drive, when suddenly a loud “whoop” screams through the air. Flashes of red and blue fill the rear-view mirror. A police officer saunters up in his perfectly pressed navy blue uniform.
Now the student is late and has a ticket for an expired registration. That student likely has a low opinion of police. But if that officer paid for the ticket and sent him on his way, would the student’s perspective change?
Amazing Heroes in Law Enforcement presentation, part of the Common Book series of events, emphasized the positives of police work. The presentation, hosted by Eastfield law enforcement professors and former police officers Michael Santiago and George DeAngelis, focused on various acts of kindness performed by law enforcement personnel.
Santiago presented some examples of police helping their fellow citizens. He told the story of Hayden Carlo of Wylie, who was pulled over for an expired registration. Carlo explained his dilemma to the officer: He could either feed his kids or renew the registration.
The officer handed Carlo a warning ticket and a $100 bill, enough to pay for both his and his wife’s registration. The officer wished to remain anonymous.
Another story was that of Florida police officer Viki Thomas, who responded to a call about a shoplifter. When she arrived at the scene, she discovered the shoplifter was a mother of three who couldn’t afford the $300 worth of groceries she had stolen to feed her children. Instead of arresting her for shoplifting,
Thomas bought $100 worth of groceries out of her own pocket, then gave the woman a ride to her apartment.
Not all of the stories had happy endings. Three minutes after San Diego police officer Jeremy Henwood gave a 13-year-old a dime to buy cookies at McDonald’s, he was gunned down by a petty thief on the run from police.
Humans weren’t the only heroes honored during the presentation. DeAngelis, who worked with K-9 officers for five years, talked briefly about the importance of K-9 to the police department. His dog Stomper, a German shepherd-husky mix, was rescued from certain death after biting a neighbor.
DeAngelis said German shepherds are chosen most because they are loyal and brave, but also approachable. Other breeds such as pit bulls and Doberman pinschers are seen as vicious by the public.
DeAngelis presented a training video where a K-9 vaulted over a car and wrestled a fleeing suspect to the ground before his human partners arrived. He also told students about an El Paso police dog kennel where K-9’s were poisoned by a Mexican cartel.
The crowd of students sat in silence for most of the presentation. Some said the presentation changed their perspective on law enforcement officers.
Many said they were moved by the selflessness of both officers and their canine counterparts.
“I thought it was very touching,” Spanish major Brenda Ramirez said. “I pretty much cried the whole time. The fact that dogs and people can be so selfless is really touching.”
Santiago said he hopes the presentation opens students’ eyes about their relationship with law enforcement officers.
“This opportunity is great because we get to show people that the overwhelming majority of police do their jobs honestly,” DeAngelis said.