Norwood: SPPD Officer's compassion for woman who lost her pet lauded

November 06, 2013
Santa Paula News

A Santa Paula Police Officer is on his way to a commendation for his actions not in enforcing the law but rather for reinforcing compassion when the SPPD was called regarding a possibly dead pet.

According Police Chief Steve McLean, Officer Shane Norwood went out on the late evening October 20 call after the woman called the SPPD to ask for assistance in determining if her beloved dog had passed away.

Norwood, a former Port Hueneme Officer and SPPD Reserve who became a full-time sworn officer about 18 months ago, wrote about the experience on his Facebook page.

"The most rewarding aspects of being a police officer are not about writing tickets or taking people to jail. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a blessing to someone who is hurting, alone and not sure who else to turn to," read the opening paragraph of Norwood's Facebook post about the incident.

Sgt. Jeremy Watson read it and forwarded the post to McLean noting, "It is my opinion that Officer Norwood went above and beyond, based on his own story, what is expected of a police officer. In the 11 years I have been employed by this agency, I have never heard of an officer being as sincere as Officer Norwood and handling the call in the manner in which he did."

McLean said Watson said Norwood not only handled the situation "in such a sincere and professional manner," but also, "definitely brought great credit upon himself and the SPPD."

Hearing of the incident and reading Norwood's narrative of the encounter, McLean said, "If I lived in Santa Paula I would feel a lot better knowing I had someone like Shane Norwood working in my community."

Norwood said he would not have followed up without Dispatcher Jennifer Schladetzky and Officer David Keathley: "They're the ones that were initially concerned," when the distraught woman phoned the SPPD at about 10:30 p.m. and they made sure Norwood was aware of her tearful request for assistance regarding her pet.

"We try to be a full service agency as much as possible," said Norwood who went to the home and found the woman in the backyard, "sitting in a chair with a dog, "A beautiful black Labrador," lying on the ground next to her partially covered by a blanket.

Norwood said the woman "Suspected her dog had died and just wanted confirmation that the dog passed.... "

Norwood checked the dog and told the woman-estimated to be in her 70s-that indeed her pet had passed away, "And I asked if there was anything I could do. She proceeded to give me a hug and say that just my very presence and support gave her strength and comfort. She must have thanked me 20 times for just coming out and being with her during her time of loss."

"She told me it was her first dog, she'd had the dog for 12 years since the dog was a puppy. I told her the dog had a good, long life.... it was a short conversation, I was there just five minutes or so," a visit that included the woman telling Norwood she did not want to bother her friends at that time of night, "so she called us."

Norwood asked the woman about arrangements for her pet and learned the dog would be buried on a friend's ranch.

"I told her I could definitely relate to what she was going through, how I spent my entire life around animals," including his former canine partner when he was a Port Hueneme Police K-9 officer, "and that I have a German Shepard now."

The reason Norwood said he shared the story on Facebook was to counter "So many stories out there, so many negative things," that are posted, "I thought it might be nice to share a different side," of life and police work on Facebook.

And Norwood said, "I personally believe that anybody in our agency would have taken the same action and offered the same support," to the woman.

"For me, that's just what we do for each other, not just as a police officer," said Norwood but as a caring human being.

"I've never seen anything like it in my 32 years," in law enforcement said McLean of Norwood's action.

During his initial meeting with the department McLean said, "I talked about my expectations, especially the importance of demonstrating compassion when the opportunity arises. This small gesture by Officer Norwood embodies everything I talked about.

Said McLean, "People sometimes have a negative view of police and this shows the positive. I am proud of Officer Norwood, he made me proud of the department and the community should be proud of him working for this community."

On Facebook Norwood concluded his narrative by noting the experience "has been one of the most rewarding moments of my career thus far. Working in a town ridden with gang violence and drug abuse can make an officer weary and suffer from 'burn out.' But this incident I experienced tonight helped remind me that police officers, in our role as 'wolf hunters' don't always hunt the human wolves that prowl in the darkness looking for their next victim -sometimes we also help fight the emotional wolves of sadness and loss for those who can't find the strength to fight them off themselves."

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