11 reasons to love your law enforcement officer

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The men and women who work in our local law enforcement agencies are taking care of folks, often on their own time and out of their own wallets.

WENDY VICTORA @WendyVnwfdn

Anyone who has driven a car knows the panic inspired by the sight of flashing red lights in your rear view mirror. Law enforcement officers give traffic tickets, are the bearers of bad news and can really ruin your day if you’re on the wrong side of the law.

But, as these stories illustrate, the men and women who work in our local law enforcement agencies are also taking care of folks, often on their own time and out of their own wallets. That’s why we decided to share these heartwarming stories. We hope you are as moved by them as we were.

1. Dispatcher gives car seat to battered woman

When a woman called the Fort Walton Beach Police Department asking where she could find a car seat for her child, Communications Officer Brittney Johnson gave her a list of resources. The woman, who was living in Shelter House, was trying to take her child out of state and someone had cut the straps on her car seat.

The woman called the agencies Johnson suggested, but none could help her. She called Johnson back, desperate.

Johnson took one of her children’s seats out of her car and gave it to the woman.

“It just came to me,” she said. “I’m a mother, too. I felt like I had to. I just tried to picture myself in her shoes and at the end of the day, it was for a baby.”

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2. Deputy buys homeless man shoes

Body cam footage doesn’t lie, and after watching the footage from Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Kruger’s camera, we were inspired.

Krug was responding to a complaint in Destin about a homeless man when he noticed the individual was barefoot.

“What happened to your shoes?” Kruger asked.

“I wore them, wore them right off,” the man answered.

That’s when Kruger told him that they would go get some shoes and he’d buy him a pizza, too. Kruger then drove the man to a nearby Walgreens, took him to the shoe aisle and let the man select a pair of shoes.

“I’m sure your feet are probably killing you,” Kruger said as they stood in the shoe aisle. The two chatted as they walked through the store, checked out and stood outside for a few moments. Before they parted, Kruger told him that if he wanted to get off the street, call 211 – a United Way number that will give him information about programs that can help him.

“I don’t want to be homeless forever,” the man told him.

Kruger didn’t tell anyone about what he had done, but people who saw his act of kindness thanked him afterward, and called to report it.

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michele Nicholson said she was touched the sincerity in Kruger’s voice and the way he treated the homeless man with dignity and sensitivity to his situation.

“I thought it was amazing,” she said. “It says something priceless about his character.”

3. Officers take the chill out of cold night for homeless

These Crestview Police Department officers went out of their way on a cold Friday night to make sure that homeless folks stayed warm.

Officer Corey Newcomb and Christina Dawson had been given the blankets by the manager of a local hotel, which was replacing some of the facility’s linens.

“I stopped and thanked them for their act of kindness,” wrote Facebook follower Mike Hopkin.

4. Deputies are on guest list for boy’s party

When Bettye Mendez started planning her grandson’s 14th birthday party, she faced one big challenge. Gage has Asperger’s syndrome and has a hard time making friends. She had already experienced the heartbreak of watching him wait by the door for birthday party guests who never came. That was four years ago.

This time around, she didn’t invite his classmates.

She invited his friends — Walton County Sheriff’s Office deputies Jeremy Fisher and Caleb Davidson. The two had met Gage in 2015 when his grandmother brought him to the Sheriff’s Office. He formed a bond with them and that Halloween, Davidson dressed up as a prisoner and went trick or treating with Gage. He did it on his own time.

Both men came to Gage’s party, which was held at a local arcade.

“I’m proud to have them here,” Gage said at his party.

5. There is room at the inn

When a defense attorney in a Walton County courtroom asked the judge to give Sgt. Waidene Bayne of the DeFuniak Springs Police Department a standing ovation, she said she didn’t want to be recognized.

They disagreed.

The victim in the case had come to town for a trial and was staying on the street, when a former boyfriend assaulted her and tore off her clothes. She had no money, no transportation and no clothing when Bayne met her.

Out of her own pocket, Bayne paid for a room at a local motel, bought her food and drinks and two sets of clothing, so she’d be appropriately dressed for court the next morning.

Bayne isn’t the only local law enforcement officer to pay for a hotel room for complete strangers.

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy Kourtney Spruill and Niceville Police Department Officer Shawn Lewis both came upon families living in their cars on hot summer nights. They each made sure the families had a cool place to sleep that night, paying for the rooms out of their own pockets.

6. ‘What goes around, comes around’

Nothing inspires gratitude more than roadside assistance in an emergency. One of the most common acts of kindness is for deputies, particularly in rural parts of Northwest Florida, to help change flat tires.

“I was halfway between my home and Pensacola, with no one to help, until the Good Lord saw fit to send these great men of our law enforcement to me,” wrote one disabled veteran of her encounter with two Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office personnel. “I was able to get back on the road and made my medical appointment at the Navy base in Pensacola after all.”

When Deputy Doug Schwall noticed a father and his daughter stranded, he went one better. The Walton County family was on their way to a birthday party in Crestview. Schwall took both of them to drop the daughter off at the party, and then took her father to get the tire repaired.

“To serve and protect,” the man’s grateful wife wrote. “That’s what this Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office officer did.”

OCSO’s Nicholson said that whether it’s raining or 110 degrees, it’s common for deputies to stop and help.

“On the flip side, one of our deputies had a flat and a citizen stopped and helped our deputy,” she said. “What goes around, comes around.”

7. ‘He treated my brother like he’s normal’

When Walton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Steve Ellison went to the home of a mentally ill man who needed medical help, he did more than keep everyone safe. He made a friend.

The man, who was diagnosed with mental illness in his early 20s, is isolated and has trouble trusting people. He even has trouble speaking to them.

“He didn’t ask for it, he didn’t deserve it, but it happened to him and it has been a struggle for our family,” his grateful sister wrote to WCSO.

She said her brother connected with Ellison, who chatted with him and even gave the man his phone number to use if he ever needed anything.

“He made my brother so comfortable,” she wrote. “When this deputy came out, he treated my brother like he’s normal. Which is all anyone with mental illness really wants?”

8. Small change, big difference

When Niceville Police Department officers were called to an elderly woman’s home about a theft, they found her crying over an empty jar that had held $87 in rolled coins.

She’d been saving that money so she could go to her great-grandson’s graduation in Fort Myers, they learned.

She said no one had access to her home and that she only leaves the door open when she visits her neighbor. They inspected the jar for prints but couldn’t find any. The next day, they took up a collection from everyone on the shift to replace her lost funds.

Twenty-four hours after their first call, they returned with the $87 she’d lost, as well as $19 more.

9. It’s a small world

Sometimes, all it takes is a few minutes to make a difference in a child’s life. Last year, Fort Walton Beach Police Department officer Kendra Stalls was responding to a call when she noticed a little boy playing alone in the yard.

She tossed a ball back and forth with him, learning later that it was the only ball he had.

When Christmas rolled around Stalls remembered her young friend, bringing him a full-size football.

Her kindness both days made a difference.

The child’s grateful mom posted a photo of the two on Facebook with the caption: “Officer (Stall) played football with my baby this afternoon. Thank you so much.”

10. Officers ease difficult day

Two Valparaiso Police Department officers who went on a medical call ended up taking the victim’s husband to a gas station and filling up his tank.

The man had just started a new job and hadn’t been paid yet. His wife was taken to the hospital by ambulance, but he didn’t have enough gas in his car to follow her there.

Officers Bobby Jordan and Rick Taylor took him to the nearest Tom Thumb and helped him out.

Their good deed was uncovered when the dispatcher questioned why they’d gone to the gas station after their call.

11. Baby steps

When an elderly lady called 911 to say she needed help, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies Glenn Hand and Amanda Lane responded.

She couldn’t say what was wrong and had trouble getting to the door to let them in. But when the 87-year-old finally was able to let them in, she didn’t have the strength to make it back to her favorite chair.

Hand helped her back to her chair, taking baby steps with her and gently placing her on her chair, where they waited for medical help to arrive.

Lane was so impressed by her coworker’s patience and compassion that she snapped this photo.

A picture is truly worth 1,000 words.

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