To serve and make a difference

A Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy impacts the community he patrols by showing he cares

by Lauren Dowdle, content director, JBMC Media
photos courtesy of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

Not everyone feels comfortable seeing a sheriff or police car driving down the street, but one deputy is working to change that perception, one patrol at a time.

Deputy Nolen joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 and currently patrols Center Point. “It’s a calling,” he says. “It’s something that has always been inside of me.”

Nolen grew up overseas, which at the time he hated. But now, he looks back on the experience as one of the best things that could have happened to him.

Deputy Nolen poses with one of the children in the neighborhood he patrols in Center Point.

“It gave me a better understanding and appreciation for different cultures and customs,” he says.

Since becoming a deputy, his favorite part of his job has been building relationships with people by interacting with the community in a positive way. That’s something he tries to do on a regular basis, he says, though his high-call volume sometimes makes it difficult.

It’s clear the people he interacts with appreciate what he’s doing. Last year, Nolen received a Christmas card and gift card from some of the residents on his beat. Knowing he was important enough to them to do that made him feel blessed.

“It’s a humbling experience. It’s great to be accepted by the community I serve and especially to have earned their trust,” Nolen says. “That’s something that doesn’t come easily. They know if you are sincere.”

He has countless memories of people and events that have stuck with him through the years, but one recent thing that happened was when he was doing his rounds and observed a group of kids out on the sidewalk.

“When I got closer, they started to disperse, except one, and he was one of my little friends,” Nolen says. “The other children started saying things to him from the distance, and my friend said, ‘He is my friend.’ One of the children yelled back at him, ‘You can’t be friends with the police.’ Long story short, they all came back, and after about 10 or 15 minutes before they left, they said something along the lines of, ‘we like you.’”   

Deputy Nolen has worked to gain the trust of the residents on his patrol beat, and children who once didn’t trust him now eagerly wait to see him drive by.

That moment really stuck with him, he says, especially as a lot of children are being taught not to like the uniform. One way he connects with the residents is by getting out of his patrol car and engaging with them.

“It’s all about sincerity and consistency. I also have a bag of candy and a container of dog treats in my patrol vehicle. That is a great ice breaker,” he says. “When I tell people where I patrol, I usually hear, ‘Oh my gosh, that is a bad place.’ I can tell you that the majority of people in the community are good, hard-working individuals. Unfortunately, just like everywhere else, you have a few that give their community a bad name.”

While he loves what he does and interactions like those, there are also difficult moments that come with the job, like when he sees bad situations that involve children.

“It breaks my heart every time,” he says. “Children are supposed to be innocent and carefree — playing and just being kids. Too often, we see the opposite.”

However, there are plenty of good moments to capture, as well. Nolen shares some of his community interactions by posting videos on Facebook from his patrols, and it’s hard not to smile watching them. He shows videos of him talking with the children he meets, like one young girl who tells him, “I love po-pos.” There’s even a girl who has a matching deputy uniform.

“The reason I started doing that was simply because of all the negative press law enforcement was getting,” Nolen says. “I wanted to shed a positive light on my profession to show that the majority of us are good and decent men and women, out in the community every day serving and caring about people.”

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