BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Corporal Damon Young knows a thing or two about bad police officers. He’s seen the good ones. His dad was a good one, he said, who served communities in Detroit for decades. But it was the bad ones he encountered one night over 20 years ago who inspired him to join the force.
“I was walking from a party with a friend of mine and got stopped by two officers investigating a fight,” said Cpl. Damon Young. “Through the process of the questioning and them investigating it, we asked questions what was going on [and] they telling us to ‘shut up’ slapping us in the back of the head, punching us in the ribs, throwing us on the ground.”
Cpl. Young said he was only 17 years old when that happened and they had nothing to do with the fight. But after that moment he vowed to join the police force, which he did in 1996. Twenty-one years later, the Battle Creek Police Department named him Officer of the Year.
“When I first found out I was getting the award I was very surprised,” said Cpl. Young during an interview at City Hall. “I was excited to even be mentioned in the category of names to be up for the award. And to actually win it was a total surprise.”
Young was among the dozens of officers recognized for their hard work within the last calendar year. Whether it was tending to an armed robbery or shooting or homicide, at least 60 percent of their staff, Chief JimBlocker said, were honored for their excellence and sacrifice.
“When I say sacrifices I mean not just the normal working hours, the 40 hrs a week that they’re scheduled,” said Chief Blocker. “I’m really talking to the families and saying thank you for all those other hours that you didn’t anticipate, that you didn’t plan on.”
Young is one of those officers who put in extra work and time, Chief Blocker said. He uses that incident he had with police as a teenager to build positive relationships with inner-city kids today.
“He absolutely loves it,” said Chief Blocker. “It's not about enforcing the law when you’re in the school it’s about teaching them how to be responsible adults.”
Young is currently stationed at Battle Creek Central High School and spends his days fostering positive relationships with the students. He said when the kids found out he was nominated, they swarmed him and hugged him and took pictures with him. He said that was all the affirmation he needed to keep doing good police work.
“A lot of teenagers, due to one reason or another, do not have a great outlook on police work,” said Cpl. Young. “But if I can be a voice to help them realize that not every officer is like that; it’s not many officers thats like that. And actually there’s a lot of great officers out here doing good things.”