by Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney

Recently in Yavapai County, a traffic stop by a police officer revealed a driver who was fidgeting, picking at her hands and grinding her teeth, with dried saliva in the corners of her mouth. Her bloodshot eyes and her pulsating pupils were precursors to poorly performed sobriety tests. She was arrested for driving under the influence of methamphetamine and for meth sales.

When the woman said she needed to pick up her 11-year-old son at football practice, the police officer and his colleagues did what they routinely do, day after day, no fanfare, no medals, just quietly doing the right thing.

With mom off to jail, a second police officer drove to the football field so someone was there when the young boy finished practice. The officer spoke with the football coach, in private, while allowing the boy to play with his friends.

The boy then rode with the officer to the police station where another officer brought him dinner. The officer began making calls, searching for family members who could take the boy in. 

A grandmother was located and the officer drove the boy to her home several miles away. 

The boy was still dressed in his football practice clothes and grandmother expressed concern that she had no clothing or other articles for the boy. 

The officer then arranged a detour to a store to purchase a change of clothes for the boy. Next, the officer re-contacted the boy’s football coaches and spoke with them about possibly gathering donations from other parents on the football team.

The next day, the officer called the grandmother to follow up on the boy’s welfare. The grandmother gratefully reported that the football coaches and several other parents already called her and were donating clothes, as well as school supplies for the boy.

This officer and his colleagues went above and beyond the call of duty, showing compassion, taking care of the boy’s plight the best way they could.  We are proud to know we have such kind and caring officers working in our community.

Who knows? Perhaps this positive role modeling by our local police department will someday influence this young boy to become a police officer himself. 

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in this country of 325 million people, there are about 765,000 full-time sworn state and local police personnel serving and protecting. There are hundreds of similar untold stories every day throughout Yavapai County, Arizona, and the United States of cops being there for us, sometimes in big ways such as the New York police officer who recently jumped off a 30-foot overpass to render aid to a teenage boy, and sometimes in small ways such as being there for the young county boy.

Every single day each officer must be prepared to act as a first responder; make split-second analyses of complex, irrational situations; rapidly sort out who poses a danger and who needs help; witness gruesome accident and crime scenes; administer often life-saving first aid; implement road safety measures; detect drug and alcohol impairment; and reverse a heroin overdose with Narcan shots. 

We ask them to become experts on a wide range of topics including mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, terrorism, geography, psychology, animal control, drug identification, federal, state, county and local laws, weapons, self-defense, transportation and to have an intimate knowledge of the people, places and things in their own communities. They memorize stacks of legal standards, compose mountains of reports recalling every minute detail and become masters of the legal system where they are called to tell the stories of their work with the utmost veracity.

Unless they do something exceptionally great or really bad, we never hear much about them. But we owe them our expressions of gratitude, nonetheless, for the staggering array of things we expect from them and which they consistently do quite well.

It is now more important than ever to let our officers know that we support them and are grateful for all the amazing things we know they do — and for all the little things they do when no one is watching.

Today and every day is a good time to say thank you to our police officers.

Sheila Polk is in her 17th year as the elected Yavapai County Attorney. She has worked for 35 years in the criminal justice system in Arizona. She currently serves as chair for the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council and chair for the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.