Meet Fred! He is a 2020 LETR Hall of Fame candidate and long time friend of the Special Olympics. Fred began his law enforcement career at age 22. Even though Fred ended up working in the jail system, he admitted that he. “really wanted to be a fireman but couldn't get a job in the mid 80s. The jail jobs were open.” As he progressed working in jails he held many jobs and finished the 20 year journey of attaining a Bachelor’s from Columbia, double majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice.
After 27 years of service, Fred retired but later decided to come back to the force. He currently works as a Bailiff for the Tarrant County Sheriff's department. Things have been significantly slower at the jail because of COVID. “Regularly we do around 25 to 27 trials a year. We did five before COVID hit and three since,” he said.
In Fred’s current position as a Bailiff he considers himself a peace officer rather than a police officer. When asked about the job he said, “In a courtroom for instance, you have to maintain a neutral setting for everyone. You’re dealing with a victim and defendant’s family. Both parties are dealing with loss. You need to be able to look at both sides, have empathy, and be able to maintain the safety of everyone in the courtroom. It’s taught me a lot about how people work. I’ve seen people who experienced murders and the families hug after the trial. It’s not like tv where most officers have to draw their guns in the courtroom.”
Referring to Fred’s 27 years of service he said, “You realize you wear a uniform. People treat you differently when you have it on. You have to treat all those people with that knowledge. You’d get in an elevator and see a child behind a parent’s leg. I’d get down on one knee and say, ‘it’s okay, you can come see me anytime when you are in trouble or need help...’ We are still people just like everyone else. As a community, law enforcement really want to help people. That is why SOTX is so precious to me. If we are doing what we are supposed to, we should be learning.
He recalled how he first experienced LETR, “I used to run a lot and our former Sheriff selected me to go to an LETR meeting because he knew I ran pretty often. I found out that in Special Olympics Texas and the Law Enforcement Torch Run you get to help individuals with intellectual disabilities. I went to my first games and I loved it and I thought to myself, ‘this is where I need to be.’ My wife is a special education teacher too so LETR fit right into our lives. It gives us an opportunity to leave things better than we found them.
I’ve spent a weekend getting pies thrown at my face. We’ve pulled airplanes and firetrucks and done casino nights. We started selling t-shirts and doing safety fairs. Safety fairs were an event I hope we get back to. In the early to mid 90s there was a big push for community policing. You get to meet your community’s officers in a non-crisis situation. We had things to hand out like stickers and books. We would set up car seats in the parking lot of local grocery stores. Kids could sit in a squad car and try on some of our equipment. We always had SOTX athletes at the fairs which would help with awareness and publicity of SOTX events and competitions. The fairs showed police in a more positive light.”
“If you don’t meet LETR officers and SOTX athletes you have a preconceived idea of how we are instead of taking time to meet and spend time with us. These events offered a chance to do just that.”
I asked Fred a loaded question, which LETR event over his 32 year career was his favorite? He smiled and said, “I honestly cannot say. I’ve got hundreds. Summer games will always be a unique memory for me. You never forget your first time at an Opening Games either. I carry something from every event. Every athlete has their own unique story. All the events hold a very special place in my heart.”
To close, Fred offered encouragement to our athletes saying, “We miss you and we miss the events too. STAY POSITIVE! It will be very soon when we will all be back out as one big family. It will be even more fun than before because we will realize what we missed.”