(SAVANNAH) The kindness of a rookie police officer in Savannah, captured on camera in a still photograph, is spreading like wildfire on Facebook, with around 3,000 likes and counting. The photo shows a rookie officer comforting a 16-month old toddler found walking alone on the street. Officer James Hurst says police academy training about community-oriented policing, coupled with his life experience as a dad, came into play when he answered the call. On Monday, officer Hurst was dispatched as back-up when residents called to say they’d found a 16 month old boy wandering the streets alone. He says when he began his career with Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police in January of this year, he knew there was more to being a law enforcement officer than writing tickets and making arrests. ” This job is so much more than just chasing the bad guys, it is about serving the citizens of the communities you work in and doing what they need you to do.” said Hurst.
The photo that’s garnering so much attention on the internet shows Officer Hurst cradling the toddler in his arms as the child awaits examination in the emergency room of Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. There were a lot of unknowns at that time, like how long the child had been wandering the streets, where he lived, and what happened to the person or persons taking care of him. He was found around 10 a.m. and taken directly to the hospital to be checked out, leading to the photo that launched thousands of likes.
Hurst says he is the father of two small boys at home, one with Downs Syndrome. He says his personal experience with his son in hospitals gave him the skills he needed to deal with the toddler as he was being examined. “It was just natural to want to soothe this child, um, I didn’t expect any of this, it’s been quite overwhelming actually.” Hurst said, adding, “The boy, obviously, being so small, became very upset. He was crying. He was sobbing. I asked the hospital staff if I can hold him to comfort him and soothe him a little bit to try to calm him down, to continue getting medical care and they said that was fine. So I picked him up, minutes later, he, I was standing and he was asleep on my chest and with all my body armor and my gun belt, became very heavy holding this small child, so that’s when I decided to sit down on the bed and make it easier for him and me.” said Hurst.
There were a lot of unknowns when Hurst responded, like where the boy lived and how long he’d been wandering on the street that morning. Cuyler-Brownsville, the neighborhood where the toddler was found, is one of Savannah’s most troubled neighborhoods according to police statistics. “I was worried, it was upsetting.” Hurst says of this thoughts as he responded to the call, but the rookie says praise he is getting from the photo of the toddler asleep in his arms is overwhelming because he isn’t the only cop in Savannah weaving compassion into his work. ” I hope it shows the communities and the citizens that we serve what us, as officers, as Savannah Chatham Metro Police Department, that we do every single day, it’s just not captured. This one time it was captured.” Hurst said.
Hurst says he does not believe he’s special in his actions because he says all of Savannah’s police force are trained to put the theories of community oriented policing into practice. ” It’s what we do, every single day, not just me, but the 600 officers that are on this department.” said Hurst.
Savannah Chatham Metro Police say they have wrapped up their investigation. No arrests were made, but the case has been turned over to state social service authorities with the Georgia Department of Family & Children’s Services. Police report the child is safe and in good condition.