Celebrating the Heroism of American Police Officers

Acts of heroism happen all the time in big cities and small communities alike. Officers with departments of all sizes rise to the occasion on a daily basis to ensure the health and welfare of the civilians they serve.

Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot

In an incident that took place in June, a South Carolina deputy saved the life of a 12-day-old baby who couldn't breathe.In an incident that took place in June, a South Carolina deputy saved the life of a 12-day-old baby who couldn't breathe.Image courtesy of Berkeley County (SC) Sheriff's Office / Facebook. 

In the span of just a few days, we reported on a number of incidents in which a police officer saved the life of an infant or a toddler.

Late last week, we posted body camera footage of a South Carolina deputy saving the life of a 12-day-old baby who couldn't breathe. In the June incident, the deputy pulled over a speeding car, and quickly realized it was an emergency occurring.

The deputy laid the child on her mother's lap and searched for a pulse, then began tapping on her chest to clear her airway and massaging her heart.

"Come on baby, cry for me," the deputy said in the video. "Cry for me!"

The deputy kept up his life-saving care until the baby started to cry, signaling that she was breathing. He then stayed with the family, checking the baby's breathing until paramedics arrived.

That very same day, we reported on an officer with the Cleveland Heights (OH) Police Department who saved a 6-year-old boy trapped inside a house fire.

The officer was the first to arrive at the scene and was told by the homeowner that her 6-year-old son was trapped inside.

He crawled under the heavy smoke and began searching for the child. He couldn't see the boy but heard him moaning. Locating him from that sound, he grabbed the child by the shirt and began dragging him out of the house, saving his life.

Just days later, we reported on an officer with the Duluth (MN) Police Department who rescued a toddler from a minivan that had crashed into a copse of trees.

The officer was on his way to work when he came upon the crashed vehicle. He called for assistance and then safely removed the child from the car.

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said in a social media post, "A scary and potentially tragic incident fortunately ends with property damage and minor injury."

Heroism Not Uncommon

These events were incredibly compelling—probably because the three individuals who were saved by those cops were tiny, adorable, and vulnerable humans. These events were also compelling because news of them came so close together.

However, incidents such as these are hardly rare—in fact, they're incredibly common.

In just the past few months, we've reported on a number of such incidents of heroism and bravery.

In May, an officer with the Millvale (PA) Police Department assisted in saving the life of a newborn baby boy at a local gas station. A woman had given birth to the boy at the gas station, but the infant was not breathing. The officer began performing CPR until paramedics arrived.

Later that month, an off-duty officer with the San Francisco Police Department was awarded a Distinguished Service Award by the Sunnyvale (CA) Police department for his actions in rescuing a small boy from drowning in a backyard pool. A young boy who fell into a pool was pulled out showing no vital signs. The officer performed life-saving CPR until medics arrived on scene.

In June, an officer with the Hazelwood (MO) Police Department was credited with saving the lives of a 3-year-old girl and her grandmother from a house fire in a basement apartment. The officer arrived at the house fire before firefighters, broke out a basement window, and extracted the two victims.

The capper might have been when later in June, an officer with the Massillon (OH) Police Department saved seven people in a single day. In the first of two incidents, he saved six teens from a flooded storm drain, and then later in the day saved the life of a man who might have otherwise died of drug overdose.

Getting Word Out

There are, without any shadow of a doubt, dozens—if not hundreds—of other incidents of bravery and heroism that took place in that short three-month span outlined here. Acts of heroism happen all the time in big cities and small communities alike. Officers with departments of all sizes rise to the occasion on a daily basis to ensure the health and welfare of the civilians they serve.

The trouble is, in many cases, the victim, the officer, and the people in immediate contact with them—friends and family, for example—were the only people to be made aware of these incredible acts of heroism.

Slowly, this may be changing.

In many cases in which the local newspaper or television news broadcast carries a story of such heroism, the source from which they draw their information is the department's social media page such as Facebook or Twitter.

For most of the history of law enforcement, officers who performed a heroic act would simply say, "I was just doing my job" and shy away from any public attention.

Departments followed suit, declining to even comment on the matter when questioned about it.

However, with the advent of social media channels—and more importantly, with several years of departments learning how to best leverage such platforms—agencies are doing a much better job of getting the word out about all the great things their officers are doing every day.

Even agencies with nobody specifically trained in social media strategies—training that is well worth the investment in time and money—have been successful in conducting direct outreach on the internet.

Not only is there the obvious benefit of controlling your own message directly to the citizens you serve, but local news media have figured out that when they pick up on your good news, the traffic to their own websites goes up, which is good for their advertisers, and subsequently good for the news outlet.

Win, win, win, win, win!

As I've previously written, if you feel you need some help in telling your stories on social media and don't want to engage one of the growing number of training companies that specialize in teaching the nuances of social media strategies and tactics, find a department that has a vibrant social media presence, and reach out to them for tips on how they do things.

It's not rocket surgery, but there are definitely some best practices out there.

There are myriad opportunities to tell stories of officer heroism—take advantage of as many as possible.

If nothing else, send your stories directly to yours truly, and I'll post them here in our news feed.

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Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot
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