Community members highlight Ore. officers' acts of kindness

A spate of recent kudos has shined a spotlight on the efforts of LEOs to serve their community

By Buffy Pollock
Mail Tribune

MEDFORD, Ore. — A spate of kudos posted on local social media sites in recent months has shined a spotlight on the efforts of some Rogue Valley law enforcement officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to brighten people's lives.

In July, when a massive fire broke out along Foothill Road, prompting evacuations and road closures, Medford resident Jacqueline Garcia was at a roadblock off Foothill Road when she began having the first of what would be a number of seizures that day. Nearby, Medford police Lt. Geoff Kirkpatrick was helping direct traffic and dealing with "some pretty irritated motorists."

Garcia later took to social media to publicly thank Kirkpatrick for staying with her during a scary time. Kirkpatrick shrugged it off, saying the aid he rendered is something local officers do quietly, and on a daily basis.

On that particular day, Kirkpatrick said, Medford police had been tasked with traffic control during the fire.

"Mostly, what I remember is it was just really, really hot, like 105 degrees that day. People are concerned about getting into where they live and, because they're upset, they're being rude to officers. Everyone is red-faced and sweating. One of them looks at me and goes, 'Hey, I think that lady over there is having a seizure.' And, lo and behold, there's a woman in the driver seat of a vehicle, and she's having a seizure," he recalled.

"She had a family member or friend with her, and I go over to see how I can help. They tell me she has a seizure disorder that's managed by medication but that the stress probably brought this on. She's sitting in the front seat ... so we felt we needed to get her out of the car and flat and on her side. In order to do that, I got in the back seat and wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into the back seat onto me and got her into a recovery position while she continued to seize."

He added, "Eventually, she comes to, and there's this strange man with his arms around her. I'm sure that was a little surprising."

Garcia ended up seizing at least twice more.

"I called for medical, and it took them a while to maneuver into that scene," Kirkpatrick added.

"Mostly, I was just trying to keep her calm and keep her from harming herself. I couldn't lay her down on the pavement — it was so hot. She ended up starting to seize again while they got her on the gurney, so I ended up kind of holding her up and setting her on my boots so she didn't get burned on the pavement."

Three officers in Ashland also were commended by locals for helping someone get home on a chilly night.

Not long before Halloween, an email came to the Mail Tribune from witnesses who said Ashland police Sgt. Scott Wenzel and officers Steve MacLennan and Angel Valdez came to the aid of a man whose motorized wheelchair died on his trek home.

Ashland police Chief Tighe O'Meara said the good deed almost went unnoticed, and that he nearly had to resort to sniffing his officers for evidence of Ben-Gay to figure out which ones had pushed the heavy chair "quite a distance" through at least a few neighborhoods in Ashland.

"He told me they pushed him all the way up North Mountain Avenue, the three of them taking turns pushing," said the chief.

"One would take a turn while the others would leapfrog the cars so they didn't leave them behind. The thing that stands out to me is, from my recollection of motorized wheelchairs, when they're dead, they're REALLY hard to push. Those things are heavy!"

O'Meara said the officers didn't want recognition.

"Just another night at work," he noted.

Another report of good deeds surfaced when a mom and daughter experienced unexpected kindness after some DoorDashing went awry.

Ashley Parret, a single mom, was out late at night delivering food for DoorDash so she could scrape together money for her daughter's yearbook.

Headed down West Glenwood Drive near Phoenix, her car got high-centered on some particularly gnarly railroad tracks, leaving her in the trusty hands of Phoenix police officer Tom Bailey and Jackson County sheriff's deputy Jordan Towe.

"(Officer Bailey) and I tried metal plates and railroad ties and rocks and everything to get enough traction. He even gave me a granola bar to make sure that I had eaten while we waited for a tow. Officer Towe from the sheriff's department arrived as well," Parret recalled.

"I'm a mom, and I was out doing some Dashing because my daughter wanted a yearbook, and she deserves it. After a very long process, Eagle Towing arrived, and I have to say they are prompt and studious. As I was leaving, I got a call from a number I didn't recognize but answered. It was officer Towe."

To her surprise, Towe asked to meet up, where he offered the mother the money for the needed yearbook.

Towe said he looks forward to connecting with community members and helping when he's able.

"I had left. I was just sitting in Phoenix waiting for the next call. Tom (from Phoenix) told me, 'She was out DoorDashing to try to get money for her daughter's yearbook,' and I thought, 'Man. I wish she would've just told me that!'" said Towe.

"My dad, when I got into this profession, said, 'If you treat people with compassion, you'll get farther than anything.' When this came up, I just felt like it was really something I wanted to do and was the right thing to do. I was always a fortunate person growing up, but I saw kids I went to school with, and I remember they were the kids who didn't always have yearbooks for everybody to sign at the end of the year."

Towe vowed to sign the yearbook when it comes in later this year.

"Mostly, I just feel like it's so important for the kids and the community to see us as people who are doing a job, but also who have feelings and compassion for the people we serve."

With at least a few decades under his own belt, Kirkpatrick said instances of compassion like these happen on a daily basis — and are at the core of community police work — but people usually don't hear about them.

"There are a lot of officers that have done some really cool things that never get recognized because they're not doing them for recognition," he said.

"Sitting with lost kids, helping a runaway kid or just helping a family find their cat. Pushing people out of the roadway. ... I know cops who have spent a lot of money out of their own pockets over the years. At the end of the day, it's just humanity. It's what you're called to do when you serve your fellow human being."

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