Ennis police officers receive social media recognition for 'Random Acts of Kindness'
ENNIS — Ennis police Sgt. Sherman Swafford works hard to make a difference in the lives of people he encounters as he patrols city streets.
Last Sunday, that difference was captured in a photograph that went viral on social media as Swafford stopped to play catch with a young man.
Swafford was training another police officer, teaching him the layout of the city. During the exercise, Swafford would go to a location and then tell the rookie officer where he was. It would be then up to that officer to respond to Swafford’s location in a quick manner, using any tools available to him such as GPS.
“I was headed to the far north end and I had a place in mind. As I drove by Scarlet Oaks, I was kind of looking around and going really slow, and saw this young man throwing a ball on the side of a garage. So I thought that I would whip in there and say hi,” Swafford said. “I turned in there. I put my phone down. The kid walked up and said “Hey, officer how are you doing?” I said ‘Hey, man, you do not happen to have another glove?’ He said ‘It's kind of old.’ I said ‘Come on. I've got a few minutes.’ I explained to him what I was doing I said ‘I’ll throw the ball with you until my rookie finds me.’”
Sue Leeper Lafollett's son Justin, is the one who played catch with Swafford in the photo. Lafollett took the photo and Lafolett said Justin is always looking for someone to baseball with.
“My son is a baseball freak. He plays on the maroon junior varsity team in Ennis and plays select. Anyways he was outside bouncing the ball on the brick wall on the garage like he always does. The next thing you know, I look outside and a policeman pulls up and I am thinking ‘Oh no, what is wrong,’” Lafollett said. “The next thing you know, my son is handing him a glove and the officer got out and started playing catch with my son. I thought that it was very enduring and thought that it was nice of him. Very sweet, heart warming act of kindness.”
Lafollett said she had never seen this type of action taken by an officer but had heard of officers doing similar things.
“He was wishing and wanting for somebody to come over because he is always bugging his friends. So he was really excited and he came into the house and said “Wow, Mom, that was really cool. I had fun,” Lafollett said. “It was the point that he got out of his car and took the time out of his work day to do that with my son.”
Swafford said he has always had a love of baseball. Any time of the year while growing up, if the weather was good, he would be out with friends playing the game. That love of the game continued on into college where he went to Navarro College on a baseball scholarship playing as an outfielder.
“We probably played catch for about 15 minutes. I shook his hand and told him good luck for the rest of the year. Good luck on his team that he plays on in Dallas, and I drove off. He plays select in Dallas and here locally,” Swafford said. “This was probably about 2 p.m. I have a cousin that lives in Cedar Hill and she said you are on Facebook and I said, ‘Oh my God.’ To be honest with you, I am not a media person. She told me that I made the Ellis County Acts of Kindness (Facebook page) and she told me what it was. So she sent me the picture and I am like ‘Oh, that is sweet.’ No big deal.”
An hour or so later, after talking with his cousin, the photo was viewed by hundreds of people online who responded back with positive feedback complementing Swafford on his efforts.
Swafford said while he appreciates the feedback, this is just one of many acts that officers at the department do everyday. His just happened to be captured through a photograph. In fact, it's actually the second time in less than a year that an Ennis officer has gone viral for his random act of kindness. The other was in July 2015, when officer Ennis police Sgt. Alan Eddins stopped to dance the “Nae Nae” dance with a group of children, and it was captured on video.
“Community policing is probably the most unseen (thing) that we do. People don’t see it. When you do something positive it is great that it comes out, but there is a lot more positive done in law enforcement that people don’t see. We as a group do a whole lot more. You just see us when we get into a fight and into a shootout. Very seldom do we get caught being the nice guy,” Swafford said. “I don’t know where that kid was going in his life. Maybe me stopping and playing ball with that kid for 15 minutes, maybe he was like, ‘Hey, those police are not as bad as they say on television.’ If we can shed a little bit of light on the younger generation to show them the positive that we do, maybe they will turn out positive. That is a good thing.”
Swafford said one kind action can make a life-long impression on that person and change a world view. Ennis Police Chief John Erisman commended the actions taken by Swafford.
“When officers have interactions with the citizens like this, it helps to ‘humanize’ the person behind the badge. All too often our citizens see our officers riding by in squad cars, working an accident, issuing a citation, taking someone to jail or when they call for police assistance because something bad has happened. These types of interactions are much more pleasurable and sends a message that our officers really do care about the well being of our citizens,” Erisman said. “I feel very strongly that Ennis police officers don't just work in our community, but we are a part of our community. When that is recognized by both the officer and the citizens we serve, it makes for trusting and beneficial relationships between law enforcement and community members, which results in increased officer safety and safety for all members of our community. Whether Ennis PD officers are playing catch, dancing with kids, reading to children at our schools, speaking at civic organizations, volunteering as baseball coaches in little league or buying Christmas presents for a needy family, we strive to improve the quality of life for the citizens we serve.”
Erisman said he believes that the first sentence in the Ennis PD mission statement sums it up best.
“The Ennis Police Department will diligently and lawfully endeavor to improve the quality of life for the citizens we serve,” Erisman said.
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