Not everyone can multi-task, but Officer Daniel Paidousis of the Knoxville (Tenn.) Police Department has a knack for it. He finds time to solve crimes and respond to citizen complaints in between calls for service.
In fact, while he was on a plainclothes detail, he recognized a woman he'd seen in a video still, leading investigators to the murderer of an elderly man. For his investigative skills, Paidousis has been named the September 2010 Officer of the Month by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Paidousis was working a special plainclothes assignment in an unmarked car in hopes of catching a car burglar. Ever vigilant, the patrol officer recognized a murder suspect walking down the street.
In June 2008, 77-year-old Hugh Patterson saw a woman at a market and invited her to his home. When he refused her demand of $40 for sex, she forcibly took his wallet and a struggle ensued. The woman pushed the man to the ground, breaking his wrist and hip, then fled. Patterson was able to reach a phone to call police and report the incident. But he died later that month from his injuries.
Two women were then caught on camera appearing to use one of Patterson's credit cards at a department store. Investigator Steve Still in the homicide division circulated still photos from the video. Officer Paidousis had seen the photos and was helping to investigate the case when he had time. This was how he recognized one of the women believed to be related to the case.
The woman had on the same clothes she had been wearing in the video, so he was fairly sure it was her. Paidousis approached the woman and identified himself as an officer. He then called Investigator Still to discuss this development in the case.
"We transported her to the detective bureau where she was Mirandized and gave a statement that it was indeed her in the photo and that was her sister with her," says Paidousis.
This break in the case led investigators to the woman's sister, Patricia McMillan, 51. She was indicted on charges of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery.[PAGEBREAK]
"This great effort by Officer Paidousis was performed while he continued to conduct his normal patrol duties on his beat in addition to his neighborhood liaison officer duties," said Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen.
Paidousis doesn't like to take full credit for McMillan's arrest, however. He was part of a larger investigation that was ultimately successful because everyone shared information and worked together so well.
"Communication is the key," says Paidousis. "It's essential. Communication between your detective bureau and your patrol division is of the utmost importance in dealing with these kinds of crimes."
The officer takes this lesson to heart when interacting with the community, as well. As a neighborhood liaison officer, Paidousis makes a habit of getting to know the people on his beat and speaking with them regularly. It helps establish trust on both sides and leaves people more open to sharing information related to crimes.
"It takes it a step further than just being a policeman on the beat when they feel that they've got a personal connection with you," says Paidousis. "They feel like they can talk to you. So I'd say it's beneficial to me and to them."
On individual calls, as well, Paidousis strives to spend as much time as needed talking to those involved, even if it's a simple complaint. One older man who had grown up in the city was upset that several residences near his home had been vacated and were becoming magnets for criminal activity. One in particular had all the trademark signs of drug dealing on the premises.
Paidousis patiently listened to the man's complaints. He then took the time to follow up and address all of his concerns. In the end, the city had the abandoned houses condemned and razed, and the police made an arrest at the house where the drug dealers were living, which led to all of them leaving the residence. Ever since, the complainant has been an extremely vocal fan of both Paidousis in particular, and the Knoxville Police Department in general.
It's tough to slow down when there are so many calls for service, and even more difficult to find time to investigate other crimes in between calls. But the 20-year law enforcement veteran believes it's worth it. He also believes it's possible as long as you prioritize your tasks. His approach has led to many arrests and even more happy citizens in Knoxville.
"Just take time. Just listen to what people are telling you. Listen to their concerns," says Paidousis. "Sometimes you're able to make a difference, sometimes you're not. But small changes mean a lot to some people."
Find out more about the POLICE Magazine sponsored NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program.
See video of the September 2009 NLEOMF Officers of the Month