One of the first significant things that ever came out of becoming known around the country happened back in early October.
One night while working, some of the young men, I've watched grow up during my career, mentioned to me that they had seen a news story being shared on Facebook about me, by their friends in New York.
They told me, they were telling people "That's my cop! That's my cop!"
Truth be told, I had a great relationship with these young men before this. However, as a result of my sudden notoriety, it gave us a chance to have some valuable conversations.
Suddenly, these young men were now comfortable talking to me about how interactions I had with them in the past had been perceived. Honestly, it was good to have an opportunity to learn how my actions could be interpreted and the effect it could have on people.
For example, they mentioned how years ago, I had been in a vacant lot across from their home hanging out with an M-4 rifle. They perceived that I had a rifle out because of them.
Now, in reality, they live in a very high crime area in which there had been a recent violent gang feud, involving several shootings between rival gang factions.
Ultimately, the reason I was sitting across from their home with a rifle, wasn't to scare or harm them. Rather, I was there to protect them in case some rival gang members had decided it was a good idea to drive by and shoot at them.
In the end, that night back in October, I realized what I had done wrong. I never actually got out and spoke to them. I never told them what I was doing. So in reality, what they were telling me that night made perfect sense. Why wouldn't they think that a heavily armed police officer sitting across from their home wasn't there for them?
Maybe at the time, I just viewed them as people who were potentially involved in gang activity, so I didn't consider it necessary to talk to them.
However, I still saw them as human beings who were important enough to stand outside and protect their safety. Even at my own personal risk. Therefore, I should have viewed them as important enough to talk too.
So even months later, I’ve never forgotten that night in October when I spoke with them. Most importantly, I'm glad they feel like I'm "Their cop" and I'm thankful they gave me the opportunity to learn and grow.