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This is a great Sunday read.
This is a great Sunday read.
It’s about what happened when Officer Justin Roedel received a call about a boy named Matt who was throwing rocks at trains.

The story could have ended up with Matt at Juvenile Hall.
But it didn’t.
Instead it ended with something beautiful happening.
Because "something clicked" between the two.

It will probably take you about a three minutes to read what the Pensacola Police Department posted.
I promise that’s it’s worth the time.

Here’s what they wrote:

"Matt" is a good kid.
He does pretty good in school, doesn’t really give his Mom a hard time.

He hangs out with his older brother and little sister while Mom is away.
And she’s away a lot more than Matt or his Mom or his brother and little sister wishes she was.

But being poor, single, raising three kids and having two or three jobs at a time is tough.
You do what you have to.

Matt is out of school for the summer and like any eleven year old, he gets bored.

He wants to explore his world like men before him but still have fun like other eleven year olds before him.

Which is how and why Matt entered the consciousness of the PPD, namely Officer Justin Roedel.

You see, Matt was passing time by chunking rocks at a passing train.
That’s dangerous, silly, and against the law.
Officer Roedel got the call and found Matt.

So this is that part where we hook up a kid and send him into the juvenile system never to be heard from again.

Not so fast.

Officer Roedel started talking to Matt.
Man to man.

It was tough at first, not much common ground.

Officer Roedel grew up in the Montana mountains.
Matt is still growing up in public housing in the part of Pensacola that most folks don’t drive through.

But something clicked.

Matt let it leak out that Mom works a few jobs, money was tight, luxuries were scarce, and that he was bored. Thus the rock throwing.

Officer Roedel may have heaved a few rocks at freight trains himself as a kid.
He gets it.

But Officer Roedel also saw that Matt was standing there in shoes where his toes were sticking out of the ends.
His clothes were threadbare.

Officer Roedel took Matt home.
He caught up with Matt’s Mom and explained the problem with the rock throwing.
She was on it.

They may not have much money, but respect for others is what they did have.

She told Officer Roedel that she wanted to enroll the kids in a summer program, but those aren’t free.

She wishes that her sons could be involved in sports, but registration fees, equipment and transportation issues nixed that.

She was doing her best, but life was winning this round.
Officer Roedel left with a promise to return.

He told his shiftmates about Matt and the family.
They quickly rallied and handed a good bit of cash over to Officer Roedel.

The word got to a local church that also runs a thrift store. Pretty soon, clothing vouchers for three kids were in Officer Roedel’s pocket.

A few favors were called in, some phone calls made, money raised and Matt and his siblings were all enrolled in a Play Pensacola summer camp.

Another officer was able to arrange for Matt and his brother to play football this season.
For free.

Trying to get Officer Roedel to talk about all this is tough.
He’s not in it for the recognition or a Facebook post.
Most of this story comes from his peers.

He has bought Matt new shoes along with a football to have something to throw besides rocks.

We imagine the train engineers are happy because the kid has a rocket arm.

Matt made a good friend and Officer Roedel is just happy to have helped chip away at a problem that affects more in our town than you realize.

Sgt. Pat Bradley summed it up best in his report to the Chief: “Over the course of just a few days, Officer Roedel changed the lives of three children in our community.
He took time and his own money and made a difference that will not be forgotten”.

Well done, Officer Roedel.

#upsideofflorida #pensacolasfinest #moreworktodo

---Pensacola Police Department

I’ll be honest, I got very emotional reading this story.
I’m always touched by people who go out of their way to help others.
By people who make a difference.

I’m sure Matt will never forget it.


Thanks to Laura Leigh Palmer-Cobb and Judy Elsevier Robb for telling me about this story.

591 views Aug 2, 2017
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