Meet our second finalist for the 4th Annual Officer Gregory Alia Award, Officer Thomas Dudley of the Ware Shoals Police Department. Officer Dudley was nominated by six different community members who all commented on his compassion and care for everyone in the community. As one shared, he is “truly a servant of the people.”
What do you love most about your job?: I’m a people person. I come from the finance business. I’m a natural de-escalator and I find that it’s easy for me to talk to people, so I love being able to do that on the job.
When is a time when you felt you truly made a difference in someone’s life?: I would like to say I do it everyday, but sometimes it doesn’t always work like that. Most of the community has opened up to me because I knew everyone from the gospel choir. We have a very small town, so it’s harder to connect with folks. The other day I got the biggest compliment I could get: there is a juvenile that we have had consistent problems with, and the other day the juvenile and another friend were down by the river where I do my workouts every day. They didn’t know how to swim but he said to his friend “it’s okay, Preacher Officer Dudley’s out here, he won’t let us drown.” It made me feel good because they recognized me and we’ve grown close. This young man feels comfortable with me even though he’s had trouble with the law.
What is the key to connecting with community?: I would say to put a smile on their faces. It’s like the old Patrick Swayze movie, be nice until it’s time to not be nice. If you’re transporting someone, you already have them under arrest, there’s no need to be mean. I’m not going to degrade them, I’m going to give them options for help or alternatives to incarceration. In regards to addiction/overdoses/narcan, I’m a firm believer that as long as there’s breath in someone, they can change their life course. There was an incident where I had to arrest a senior in high school, he ran away and I had to force him to the ground. Now I’m not paid to discuss my religion and I know other people have different beliefs. But I had seen this kid before. I had taken him to jail before, and he said “ I know you; you’re the crazy one who believes in a false god.” Then I asked him if I could pray for him. I said that it’s okay if he didn’t want to join me but I let him know this was something I felt like I needed to do in that moment. And he started tearing up and said “Please pray for me.” A couple weeks later when I saw his parents they said he seemed like a completely different child. They said to me, “We don’t know what you said or did in that car, but he’s a completely different kid now.” They said he started going to school again and stopped misbehaving and bullying others. When it came for court time, I stood up and spoke to the man’s character and was able to get the charges dropped. I said look, now this isn’t a bad kid, he’s young and I don’t want anything that he’s doing so young to permanently be on his record. I don’t force my views on anyone, I just try to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
Join us in congratulating Officer Dudley for his nomination and for being named a finalist!
About the Officer Gregory Alia Award
Serve & Connect was founded by Kassy Alia in memory of her husband, Greg Alia, who was killed in the line of duty on September 30th, 2015. This prestigious annual award is named in his honor and recognizes an outstanding officer who demonstrates a commitment to serve his/her community with respect and compassion; one who goes above the call of duty to ensure that members of the community are protected, cared for, and feel valued; one who treats all members of the community as equal and who employed their role with thoughtfulness and tact; and who through everyday interactions builds a safer community for all. The award is presented at our annual event, the Knight of Honor Gala, which will be held on September 27, 2019 in Columbia, SC.