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50 states, 50 police heroes: How cops made an impact in 2023

See how law enforcement stepped up through acts of heroism to create some good this past year

From helping a child celebrate their birthday to spreading holiday cheer, we’ve rounded up one act of police heroism from each of the 50 states – just a small sample of the excellent work law enforcement officers do every day across the country.

Did we miss an officer’s amazing act of kindness or bravery? Email us at editor@police1.com and we’ll add it to our roundup.

Alabama

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Ider Police Department

A traffic stop in DeKalb County turned up a child reported missing from Pennsylvania. And the officer responsible was the son of TV’s “Dog the Bounty Hunter” on his first day as a certified patrol officer. FULL STORY

Alaska

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Photo/Alaska State Troopers Facebook

The Alaska State Troopers teamed up with their public safety partners from the Mat-Su Valley to treat local children to a holiday shopping spree during “Shop with a Hero” at the Wasilla Walmart. Through the generous support of Walmart, Alaska Police and Fire Chaplains, Alaska Peace Officers Association and FOAST - Alaska Law Enforcement Museum, each child could purchase gifts for themselves and family members.

Arizona

Officers with the Glendale Police Department responded to the canal for an animal welfare check when a passerby saw the German Shepherd swimming with no route for escape. An officer jumped into action by removing his ballistic vest and gun belt and hopped into the canal to try to rescue the dog. The dog was skittish and avoided the officer, but he came up with a plan: to lure the dog with freshly baked pumpkin muffins that his wife had packed him for his shift. FULL STORY

Arkansas

Ark. officer credits colleagues with speedy recovery after head-on collision with suspected drunk driver

Pine Bluff Police Department

Pine Bluff Police Department Officer Tiffany Wood, who was severely injured in a head-on collision with a suspected drunk driver, thanked her family and co-workers for enabling a quicker-than-expected recovery. “I could’ve died that night, I could’ve been paralyzed, I could still be in the hospital,” she said. Wood suffered broken ribs, vertebrae and a broken femur, as well as a knee and head injury. FULL STORY

California

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U.S. Department of Justice via AP

A 13-year-old girl kidnapped and sexually assaulted was rescued when passersby saw her hold up a “help me” sign in a parked car. Officers responded and found the “visibly emotional and distressed girl,” who mouthed the word “help” to officers. FULL STORY

Colorado

Deputies responded to a domestic dispute involving a 71-year-old woman and her boyfriend. The woman told a deputy that the argument started because her “babies were hungry.” She told the deputy that she’s parenting her two great-grandchildren, ages 8 and 10. The deputy left the home and went to Walmart to buy groceries. “Thank you for the kindness, compassion and generosity you showed this family,” the department wrote about the deputy on X, formerly known as Twitter. FULL STORY

Connecticut

Two state police sergeants are credited with saving the life of a distressed woman who was found sitting on a ledge of a bridge about 100 feet above the Connecticut River. In the video, a sergeant can be heard telling the woman that whatever got her in this position is “something we can work on.” FULL STORY

Delaware

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Photo/New Castle County Police via Facebook

New Castle County Police officers with the Community Services Unit spread some holiday cheer by delivering presents to families in need in their communities. Well done, team!

Florida

A sergeant is grateful to be alive after a deputy stepped in to perform CPR after he suffered a heart attack while on duty. The deputy started CPR and then retrieved a nearby AED, which eventually led to the officer’s heart beating again. FULL STORY

Georgia

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Photo/WSBTV

A deputy responding to a 911 call and several bystanders saved the life of a man at a local YMCA. Body camera video shows the deputy running up a flight of stairs in the YMCA to find an unconscious man, suffering from cardiac arrest surrounded by a crowd of people. The deputy is seen on body camera video doing compressions on the man. After several minutes, the man regained consciousness. FULL STORY

Hawaii

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Photo/Kent Police Department via Facebook

Earlier this year, a wildfire swept through the Maui community of Lahaina, Hawaii. That wildfire has now been called the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. However, in true first responder fashion, police departments around the country stepped up to help those in need as the community began the long process of rebuilding. FULL STORY

Idaho

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Photo/Idaho State Police via Facebook

Idaho State Police Trooper David Wesche and Communications Center Supervisor Ray Shute were awarded with the Hero’s Award by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “We’re proud to honor their heroic actions as they both played an instrumental role in rescuing an 11-year-old missing child from a remote wilderness in Idaho,” the Idaho State Police wrote on Facebook.

Illinois

Deputies with the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office helped rescue a 5-year-old girl who was trapped on the third floor of an apartment during a fire. Body camera video shows deputies working with nearby residents to hold out a blanket to catch the girl who was dropped out of the window. West Peoria Fire and other local fire departments responded and saved the other three family members from the apartment. FULL STORY

Indiana

Three police officers raced into action to save a family of six, including their 7-month-old baby, from the second story of a burning home. Unable to gain access to the front of the house, officers found a ladder and used that to reach a second-floor window. The family was safely evacuated and the officers were recommended for the Medal of Valor by Frankfort Police Capt. Evan Hall.

Iowa

An officer was sent to the scene after reports of screaming, where he found three dogs viciously attacking a woman. The officer shot and killed the dogs to save the woman’s life within 30 seconds of showing up. The woman, whose legs were amputated to her knees, is still recovering in the hospital. A GoFundMe has raised more than $30,000 for the injured woman.

Kansas

Sometimes, all you need is a hug. A deputy who stopped a speeding driver found this truth out quickly after the man he pulled over broke out in tears, explaining some personal challenges he was going through. Through tears, the driver asked the deputy if he could have a hug. The deputy gave him one without hesitation, telling the man: “I promise you, it’s going to get better.” FULL STORY

Kentucky

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Louisville Metro Police Department

The first day of kindergarten is a momentous occasion for children as well as their parents. For one little boy, he was missing a special person waking him into school on his first day: his police officer dad. Luckily, 5-year-old Riley had the support of his dad’s colleagues, who lined the sidewalks as he walked into school. FULL STORY

Louisiana

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Photo/Louisiana State Police via Facebook

After Trooper George Baker died in 2020, a fellow trooper’s wife took it upon herself to re-purpose George’s uniform shirt, the very one he was wearing when he made the ultimate sacrifice. “She transformed it into a beautiful dress for his beloved daughter, Harper,” the department wrote on Facebook. Harper wore the dress during her school’s homecoming week for “Hero Day,” honoring her father’s memory.

Maine

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Scarborough Maine Police Department

A 4-year-old named Myles came to the Scarborough Police Department with invitations for the whole department to his birthday party. “Myles’ mother told us how excited Myles was to have special guests come to his party, so of course, we couldn’t let him down,” the department said in a Facebook post. Sgt. Flynn, Ofc. Greenleaf, Ofc. Murphy, K-9 Tucker and several Scarborough FD firefighters made a stop at his birthday party. FULL STORY

Maryland

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Photo/Facebook via Maryland State Police

Two troopers raised nearly $5,000 in two weeks to purchase presents and gift cards for the children, ages 17, 13 and 6, after their parents died in a multi-vehicle crash. FULL STORY

Massachusetts

Police used a drone to find an injured hiker in a snowy and wooded conservation area after the 54-year-old man suffered a lower leg fracture. First responders carried the man nearly a mile out of the wooded area due to the difficult terrain. FULL STORY

Michigan

Choking, especially in young children, is every parent’s nightmare. This sergeant is being credited with saving the life of a 15-month-old who was not breathing after something had been obstructing the baby’s airway. The sergeant performed back thrusts on the child’s back, who later coughed up what had been in its airway and started crying — the best sound anyone could hear in this type of emergency. FULL STORY

Minnesota

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Photo/Facebook via Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office

A pit bull puppy was thrown from a pickup truck that was being pursued and he shivered for hours in subzero weather until deputies rescued him from a snowy freeway embankment the next morning. Deputies rushed the puppy to an emergency veterinarian for treatment of a broken leg and other injuries that he is expected to survive. FULL STORY

Mississippi

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Photo/Hattiesburg Police Department via Facebook

The Hattiesburg (Miss.)Police Department Detectives Division partnered with Child Protective Services and the Forrest County Prosecutors Office to donate holiday gifts for area foster care children. “May we all come together this holiday season and celebrate the spirit of giving,” the department wrote on Facebook.

Missouri

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Photo/Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department via Facebook

An officer is being hailed a “Christmas hero” after helping a man find a pocketknife during a concert. Officer Jerry Richardson helped the man find the knife, which was gifted to him by his father who died from cancer 22 years ago. “Given the circumstances in the moment, the man threw the knife into the garbage to enter the concert. When Richardson heard what happened, he took it upon himself to dig into the trash and find the knife. Richardson then cleaned it. He would later find the man and return the sentimental gift,” the department wrote on Facebook.

Montana

An officer’s dash cam footage shows the moment an officer convinces a teen not to leap from a Montana bridge. Video of the incident was released on the Great Falls Police Department’s Facebook page. It shows Officer Jacob Smith putting his cruiser into reverse and driving back to where a person can be seen climbing over a railing. “He’s jumping right now,” Smith said on his radio. “Hey, Buddy! Don’t do it. Will you talk to me, please?” FULL STORY

Nebraska

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Photo/Columbus Police Department via Facebook

Every holiday season, the Columbus (Neb.) Police Department stuffs their cruisers with gifts that are collected during their annual holiday parade. “We donate to local youth organizations for families needing some help this season,” the department wrote on Facebook.

Nevada

The vehicle caught fire after crashing into a center median. When an officer arrived on scene, he broke a window and got the driver out. The video shows a bystander helping the officer pull the driver out of the car just before it caught fire. FULL STORY

New Hampshire

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Photo/New Hampshire State Police via Facebook

New Hampshire State Police troopers dropped off a donation of toys to the “Spirit of Giving Toy Drive,” benefiting children in need this holiday season. “It’s official! Santa told us the New Hampshire State Police is on the NICE list,” the department said on Facebook.

New Jersey

The officers used nearby footprints in the snow as a tracking tool and discovered the man had become separated from his walking stick and right boot. As they dug a bit deeper, they found the man a short distance from the shoe, lying on his back and struggling to breathe. He was clinging to life, suffering from hypothermia. FULL STORY

New Mexico

New Mexico State Police Officer Ismael Perez pulled over a driver who ran a red light, but what happened next no one could have predicted. As soon as he got up to the vehicle, he saw a baby in the front seat of the car — silent and motionless. The baby had been born in the car minutes earlier as the parents rushed to the hospital. Officer Perez said he realized the umbilical cord was compressed, so he started slapping the baby on the back until he began to cry.

New York

This blizzard was unlike anything the officers had ever encountered before. Heavy, lake-effect snow, unrelenting winds with hurricane-force gusts and subfreezing temperatures paralyzed the region for 37 hours. Still, they braved the conditions to save stranded motorists. “They went out in the eye of the worst part of the storm to save people, putting their own safety aside,” said Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. FULL STORY

North Carolina

An officer and a bystander moved a man to safety from a burning truck. The body camera video shows the truck’s engine and parts of the seating area engulfed in flames. Lt. Corey Brooks went into the tractor-trailer and pulled an unconscious man out of the truck’s driver’s seat. A loud explosion can be heard as fire trucks pull up to the truck and Brooks calls for medical assistance. FULL STORY

North Dakota

Dramatic body camera footage of a shooting ambush in Fargo shows the surprising nature of the chaotic attack along a busy street that left one police officer dead and others wounded, as the only officer left standing called for help and engaged the heavily armed shooter. This incident shows good tactics to end an ambush and offers a display of great courage. FULL STORY

Ohio

Toledo Post Trooper Katie Thomas located the black cat on Interstate 475. She was able to safely catch the cat with the help of a good Samaritan. The cat, who was later named “Trooper,” was taken to the Humane Society, where it was later adopted. FULL STORY

Oklahoma

A Sallisaw police captain prevented a pursuit suspect from approaching the Diamond Daze Festival, where many children were present, by crashing his patrol vehicle into the driver in a head-on collision. “The word hero sometimes is lost on folks,” the city said in a Facebook post. “Sallisaw Police Captain John Weber performed a lifesaving, heroic act – all while completely placing his own life in jeopardy. Captain Weber, thank you for your selfless service and sacrifice. We pray you heal quickly.” FULL STORY

Oregon

Oregon State Police troopers joined more than 150 law enforcement officers from around Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley for the annual “Shop with a Cop” event. Each officer was paired with a child who received a $50 shopping spree and a photo with Santa.

Pennsylvania

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Photo/Facebook via West Chester PD

The fast actions of a West Chester police officer saved the life of a gunshot victim. Within a minute of hearing a single gunshot, Officer Aaron Davis had loaded the unnamed victim into his police car. Within four minutes, the 21-year-old man with a wound to the abdomen was under the care of staff at Chester County Hospital. The victim was later airlifted to a hospital, where a surgeon credited the officer for saving the man’s life. FULL STORY

Rhode Island

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Photo/Jason K Messier

A parade of more than 20 local vehicles, including West Warwick Police Department and West Warwick FD, concluded a toy drive in cooperation with Matthew’s Wish. In 2016, a then-junior in high school, Matthew Thayer had one selfless holiday wish: to host a toy drive for needy children and their families.

South Carolina

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Mount Pleasant Police Department

When Mount Pleasant officers were alerted to a possible drunk driver, an officer caught up with the vehicle and started the traffic stop. The officer determined she was not impaired by alcohol or drugs. “While speaking to her, the officers realized she continuously complained of a headache. The officers determined that she was possibly having a medical episode and requested an ambulance,” the department stated in a Facebook post. The woman was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had to undergo an eight-hour surgery but is doing well now. FULL STORY

South Dakota

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Photo/Mitchell Police Department via Facebook

Law enforcement officers, fire/EMS personnel, communications center and administrative support staff met at the Mitchell (S.D.) Walmart store to help 27 local kids find and purchase gifts for their families. The “Holiday with a Hero” event has taken place in Mitchell for the last 18 years.

Tennessee

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Metro Nashville Police Department

Five Nashville police officers were honored for their role in saving the lives of children during the Covenant School shooting. Det. Michael Collazo, Officer Rex Engelbert, Det. Sgt. Jeff Mathes, Det. Ryan Cagle and Det. Zachary Plese were awarded the first-ever T2T Stephen Siller Award and immortalized in a portrait by American painter Steve Penley at the 2023 FOX Nation Patriot Awards. FULL STORY

Texas

Officer Joel Nitchman and narcotics K-9 Roni have been partners since 2018. The duo had just returned to their station from training when winds started to violently pick up. Roni was still in his kennel in the squad. Surveillance video shows Nitchman running outside with lightning flashing, and torrential downpour with powerful winds and debris flying everywhere. Nitchman was finally able to coax Roni out of the squad, but they almost didn’t make it back into the station. FULL STORY

Utah

Utah Highway Patrol trooper Ralph Evans’ life was spared nearly 45 years ago thanks to a doctor who happened to spot the officer on the side of a road after he’d been shot. This year, the trooper got the opportunity to reunite with the man who saved his life. FULL STORY

Vermont

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Photo/Vermont State Police via Facebook

Way to go, Trooper! This trooper was on patrol when he met a little boy named Charlie, who asked the trooper to sign his cast. A small act of kindness, but we’re sure it made Charlie’s day!

Virginia

The Newport News Police Department released new videos showing officers responding to Richneck Elementary School on the day a 6-year-old shot a teacher. In one clip, a body-worn camera video shows an officer driving a patrol car on the way to the school on Jan. 6, 2023. While driving there, the officer can be heard praying: “Heavenly Father, keep our officers safe, keep our students safe, let us make the decisions we need to make.” Note: Fast-forward to 3:46 in the video for the clips of officers responding to help the children in need. FULL STORY

Washington

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Photo/Bellingham Police Department via Facebook

The Bellingham Police Department helped reunite a little girl with her favorite doll. During the summer, 3-year-old Milly lost “Miss Molly” at the Skagit Highland Games. “Through the weeks of separation, Milly held fast to the idea that one day a police officer would bring Miss Molly home safe,” the department wrote on Facebook. Milly’s mom found one on eBay, but reached out to the department for help. “We all know that mom is the real hero in this story, but we are glad she cut us in on the action to bring a smile to Milly’s face,” the department said.

West Virginia

This post says it all. The sergeant who was on patrol noticed a woman come up to his cruiser, who told him her child was suffering from a fever, seizure and was unconscious. The sergeant transported the mother and her child in his cruiser, allowing the child to regain consciousness after being dropped off at the nearest emergency room. Well done, sergeant!

Wisconsin

Officers noticed a minivan was driving with a flat tire that had sparks flying from the wheel. The officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the 84-year-old driver did not pull over. The minivan erupted in flames a short time later and became engulfed in fire. The minivan was stopped and officers ran toward the flames and pulled the driver to safety. FULL STORY

Wyoming

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Photo/Cheyenne Police Department via Facebook

Thanks to support from the community, the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Police Department was able to spread some holiday cheer to 32 children with gifts and food. “During the event, children hand-selected by school counselors were paired with members of local law enforcement to spend $150 however they liked,” the department wrote on Facebook. Each child also received a holiday meal.

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of FireRescue1.com and EMS1.com, is the senior editor of Police1.com and Corrections1.com. In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.
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