Two of the five finalists for Crown Royal’s 20th “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest, for which the NASCAR Brickyard 400 is renamed in his or her honor, are police officers being recognized for their heroism.
The two officers chosen — Deputy Marshal Stephen Brady of Waterloo, Indiana — and Senior Lead officer Deon Joseph of Los Angeles — illustrate how diverse acts of heroism in police work can be perceived. Brady is recognized for his perseverance overcoming an intense attack, while Joseph’s accomplishments and activism are what have pushed him into the spotlight.
LA Cop Honored for Activism on Skid Row
Deon Joseph’s story doesn’t start out like most. As an African-American male growing up in Los Angeles, he perceived police as people he couldn’t trust. He’d been indoctrinated to believe that police weren’t on his side, and it was never something he aspired to be.
It wasn’t until his family business collapsed that he considered a position with the LAPD, at the encouragement of friends, and all the myths he’d heard were dispelled.
“I realized these were people with tough jobs trying to make a difference — now I respect every person who wears the badge,” Joseph said.
Seventeen years later, Joseph is the Senior Lead Officer for the Central City East area of L.A., more commonly known as Skid Row. He acts as a liaison between the department and the community — most of whom are recovering drug addicts struggling to stay clean.
Joseph’s position as Lead Officer allows him to experiment with and develop different programs to help the community.
One such program is ‘Just Like You,’ a youth program designed to show kids in Skid Row that they can be more than what they see on the street.
“When I first started [in this position] I was introducing myself to the missions in the area, and I couldn’t believe how many kids were there,” Joseph said. “So I met them, and I asked each one what they wanted to be — and I’ll never forget — this one girl said ‘chances are I’m going to be just like all the adults out there, doing drugs.’ That really struck me, had me thinking, ‘What can I do to reach out?’”
Joseph started the ‘Just Like You’ program in 2006, matching kids with mentors who are successful in their field and who grew up in the same environment. The program is present in high schools and juvenile delinquent centers, and has caused most students’ academic performances to increase a full letter grade.
‘Ladies Night,’ another successful creation of Officer Joseph’s, is a self-defense program that encourages abused women to report crimes. The idea for the program came to Joseph when he was working undercover and encountered a prostitute who had been beaten and refused to give him any information.
“This program lets women know that they have the right to report a crime and that we will not recriminalize or victimize you for prostitution or drug use or warrants. You won’t be marginalized because of your social status.”
The program continuously sees a large turn-out, and has even helped to put a serial rapist in the area behind bars.
In an effort to build trust among the homeless community, Joseph also began a hygiene program in 2008 in which a mobile police substation travels around with housing information, drug recovery pamphlets, and hygiene kits in an effort to keep the community clean, get jobs, and find housing. The program has housed more than 100 people, and deters drug dealers from corrupting those trying to recover.
Joseph followed in the footsteps of his father — who grew up poor and started his own business, gave jobs to people in need, and fostered 41 children in total with his wife.
Joseph said winning the “Your hero’s name here” contest would be a cool way to give his father one more ‘thank you’ for inspiring him to be what he is today: an activist, an opportunist, and undoubtedly a hero.
Ind. Cop's Survival Story Celebrated
Officer Stephen Brady has worn many hats. He has served Indiana as an EMT, a firefighter, a police dispatcher, and an officer.
In December 2011, Brady was ambushed by two individuals, one of whom opened fire using a revolver, lodging a bullet between Brady’s right eye and ear, which exited behind his ear.
The trial for the one surviving suspect is pending.
After 11 months of recovery, Brady still suffers some permanent vision loss in his right eye, and some hearing loss in his left ear – neither of which are serious enough to keep from his police work.
“I have other remnants as well, such as titanium mesh and screws, some small bullet fragments inside my head, limited jaw movement, and so on,” Brady wrote in an end-of-year article for PoliceOne in December. “However, I always know there are many, many others in this world who have had far worse experiences, and face far greater challenges than mine. “
An optimistic Brady returned to work doing desk duty with many reminders of that fateful December day – both physical and mental. The accident challenged his beliefs, his relationships, and his career; but he came out feeling one thing: affirmation.
“I feel an affirmation in many core beliefs. Belief that there are truly bad people in this world — and that evil does exist — in many ways" Brady wrote in the article.
“Belief that there are truly good people in this world, and that they far outnumber the bad. Belief that our profession is truly a dangerous one, no matter the size of your agency or community served, no matter full time or reserve.
“Affirmation to the paramount importance of training. Affirmation that mindset is crucial to outcomes of critical and/or potential life and death events,” Brady writes.
He credits his family — his wife above all — for helping him through his recovery.
Despite receiving a Purple Heart from the Police Officers Hall of Fame, Brady refutes any recognition for being a hero.
“I’m just a cop doing my job," he wrote in the previous PoliceOne article. "To me the real heroes are the members of our armed services, and our nations ‘first responders.’”
Win or lose, Officer Stephen Brady is a winner, who is looking forward to attending his home state’s NASCAR race regardless of who’s name is on the Brickyard 400.
Vote for your hero, here, every day until June 9.