Police work: a family affair

It is not uncommon to observe police officers following in the footsteps of their brothers and fathers in police departments across the country. Oftentimes, the accomplishments demonstrated by these family members provide motivation for brothers and sons to join a department and effectively impact public safety.

If you ask for DeBenedetto in the Phoenix Arizona Police Department, the typical response is, “Which one”?

That’s because there are three — Michael, Brian, and Nick — and all are lieutenants.

Approaching 30 years on the force, Michael was the first one to join and he frequently talked about his work. “I did not recruit them. They probably saw how much fun I was having and it seemed like a natural choice for my brothers to do it,” said Michael. They all started in different places in the city. “Keeping us separated keeps our lives different,” said Michael.

“I’ve met so many people who know my brothers,” said Lt. Nick DeBenedetto. Wherever he goes, he hears good things about his brothers. “It’s our character that makes us who we are,” said Nick. For him, police work provides a real sense of worth.

“This is what I love to do. This is what I have been wired to do,” said Nick. “Everything you do, you feel you do it with the understanding you represent the family. It’s a career in which I represent everything my mother and father taught me.”

The three brothers don’t see each other often due to work and family responsibilities. Occasionally, however, they will all meet for lunch. When they are together, they usually don’t talk a lot about police work. “We are all very independent and have our own lives and families. “It’s nice to have the commonality of having the same profession because when one relates an experience, the other can understand it,” said Lt. Brian DeBenedetto. Brian believes he and his brothers have a tremendous work ethic, and he relates they try to be the best they can be.

Like the DeBenedetto brothers, Sgt. John Ravinskas of the Arlington County Virginia Police Department works in a different district from his brother, Corporal Michael Ravinskas, and his son, Officer Matthew Ravinskas, who are also members of the department. The Ravinskas brothers sometimes have lunch together and talk about work issues. John said he did not encourage his son to go into police work but, instead, told him to consider other options. Over time though, he observed that his son became more interested in police work. “I’ve always looked up to my dad,” said Matthew. “I think it’s great if you have a good relationship with your family. You develop the same perspective on a lot of things.”

“In a sense, everyone you work with is your ‘brother’ but working with your brother is a little deeper commitment because it’s your flesh and blood,” said Michael. He emphasizes that working with his brother is positive. “I think I was an influence on him. We both think very much the same, and we both are pretty good at what we do,” he said. He also admits they are teased at times. “We joke about everything,” said Michael.

James Guzdowski, a retired detective from the Prince William County Virginia Police Department who is now employed as a civilian Investigative Technician, has a son, Joe, employed as an officer on the department. James believes his biggest indirect influence on his son was when he came home every day and shared his work with the family. “I encouraged him to explore what law enforcement was about,” he said. “Your people skills are your most important asset,” James told his son.

Officer Brandon Maroney of the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Department followed in his father’s footsteps. His dad, William Edward Maroney, is a retired Sergeant who served 27 years and worked in the same district where his son now works on patrol. “I never really discussed police work around the house. Brandon did ride with me a bunch of times,” said his father. When Brandon decided to join the department, his father said, “It came out of nowhere.”

Brandon feels he is a better police officer because of his dad. “I already have someone who made the mistakes so I know not to make them. He presents a different way of looking at things that only a guy with 27 years of experience can. I don’t expect an easy ride. I’m earning my own way here,” said Brandon. He acknowledged his father influenced him greatly on the importance of writing well. “I would say that’s my biggest strength. Writing is a huge part of police work,” said Brandon.

Also in the Prince George’s County Police Department is a brother team — Cpl. Carlton Sheppard, and his brother, Lt. Terence Sheppard. “We think a lot alike. We know each other. We trust one another. We have an opportunity to vent with one another. We definitely provide motivation for one another,” said Carlton. “It’s like having a good friend to work with. My brother is a good listener,” said Terence.

Though his brother is a higher rank, Carlton accepts that and is able to deal with it. “I checked my ego at the door. A lot of people are concerned about how I feel about it,” he said. Some tease him and tell him he should salute his brother. “People can co-exist and work in the same police department and can thrive and excel,” said his brother, Terence.

Well known in the Prince George’s County Police Department is the Norris family. Henry Norris Sr. served 31 years on the department before he retired and is currently the Chief of Landover Hills Police Department in Landover, Maryland. His three sons — Henry, George, and Michael — are employed with the department, and he is proud of them. “It makes me feel good because I know what kinds of cops they are, and they all do a good job,” said Chief Norris.

Corporal William (Billy) Norris engaged in ride-along every chance he could get. His father showed him how to prepare reports. “He’d actually teach me how to do paperwork,” said William. Teasing was common, and he was often asked how many more of the Norris’ were coming on the department.

“I didn’t want to ride my father’s coattails. I wanted to be my own person and develop my own reputation. I wanted to make my own name for myself,” said George. He explained he gives his brothers advice, suggestions, and steers them in the right direction when he can.

“It’s great to have family on the department because they know how it is to be a police officer,” said Michael. He explained that if he has experienced a bad day on the job, he can talk to his brothers or father to relieve the stress, and they will understand. “They give me strategies and ideas. It’s awesome,” he said. Being the youngest of the brother team, Michael admits there is more pressure on him to work harder.

The bond that exists between brothers and father/son teams in police departments is a strong one that thrives on the influence of example, guidance, cooperation, pride, a solid work ethic, and congeniality. Family members who work in the same environment seem to have a genuine affection for one another and are inspired with a mutual passion to excel. Though brothers and sons want to make their own individual mark in their law enforcement careers, they share a commitment and keen desire to make a genuine difference in people’s lives.

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