I know a number of police officers. I’ve come to know them professionally and become friends with them ly. I see the ways in which the nature of the job hardens them emotionally, and some of the price that they pay – and that we pay – for their isolation.
I’m jumping the gun on Joe’s policy of good news on Saturdays, but out of my own respect for the men and women who put on uniforms and defend us here at home, I want to nominate my own hero. In Wednesday’s L.A. Times is this story of a police officer whose heroism was of the heart and of the spirit. Read about LAPD Officer Derwin Henderson, and what he’s done by putting his life on the line…not in an instant of adrenaline-filled bravery…but in the kind of patient courage that doesn’t translate to TV or the big screen, but makes all the difference here in reality. I can’t pick a “bullet quote” and give you a sense of this story, in which a LAPD officer accepts, guides, and ultimately adopts a child no one else could or would raise. So here are a few:
Patrolling the streets for the Los Angeles Police Department, he had arrested more than 500 kids: burglars, rapists, drug dealers, robbers. “Hook and book” had become his motto. “I thought juvenile hall was where they belonged.”
But he had begun a new assignment the year before: visiting schools for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, talking to children about gangs and drugs. And in every class, he met boys like Terrance: aimless kids destined to drift into trouble, all energy and audacity.
But behind the bold talk, Henderson was questioning himself. How had a cop who never gave a second thought to hundreds of delinquent boys become a man who couldn’t stop worrying about one?
He realized that his work with DARE, designed to change young lives, had actually changed him.
“I saw kids I would have put in juvenile hall and realized they were crying out for help,” he said. “I saw their lives, their families, their neighborhoods. It changed my views about young people. Some never had the opportunities … like you had, like I had. Didn’t every kid deserve that chance?”
And Terrance has discovered that there are other things in life that offer success.
He watched alongside Henderson from the sidelines as his team played its final game and lost in the playoffs in December.
The next weekend, at the championship game, Henderson watched alone from the stands. All night long acquaintances asked, “Where’s your son? How’s he doing?”
Terrance had decided not to come, Henderson told them. Finals were coming up the next week. His son was at home, studying.
While Officer Henderson’s story is incredibly uplifting, we ought to remember that it’s not unique. There are doubtless hundreds or thousands of Derwin Hendersons out there, each doing something remarkable out of the spotlight. Here’s my acknowledgement to them all through my recognition of one. Thank you, sir.