Charlottesville Police Foundation i

Behind the Badge - Corporal Eric Thomas

November 21, 2019

 

 

What inspired you to want to become a police officer?

When I was a kid, the idea of driving a car fast and flashing lights really excited me. I thought that would be kind of cool. Plus, I had an uncle who was a captain in the police department in Martinsville. Then, as I got older, I would meet the School Resource Officers, and I started realizing the police officers and sheriff’s deputies were people who could really help you in a time of need. That is really what drew me to it most. The other thing was the opportunity to help people who make mistakes change their lives around. I work in the Fifeville and 10th and Page areas, and many times, guys I have arrested multiple times have called out to me and told me that I had helped them kick-start themselves and get on the right track.

What role does communication with the public play in your work?

I think one of the most important things in police work is consistency. So, the more people see you and know you, the better chance there is that they will be willing to talk with you. Listen, anybody who knows me will tell you I’m a talker. In fact, I would say, if I wasn’t in law enforcement, I would probably be a preacher. I have really good relationships with people in my neighborhoods. People may not know this, but I give my cell phone to people and tell them to call me whenever they need to. Sometimes they share past incidents or tell me about incidents that are about to happen. Or, they will call me because they know me and they like my policing style. Sometimes they would rather call me than 911 because of the stereotype that when you call the police you are a “snitch” or a “rat.” Other times, they just call for personal advice or with invitations to cookouts or kids sporting events. Again, it is all about being a consistent presence in the communities you serve. Another way my passion for communicating plays into my job is through my work as Assistant Team Leader on our Negotiations Team. Just yesterday we had a guy who barricaded himself in his house with weapons, and I was able to reason with him and we all got through it. He came out peacefully, and it could have been a really bad situation.

What has the Charlottesville Police Foundation meant to you and your family?

I can’t say enough good things about what the Foundation does for us. Everything I have ever needed in the way of support for community events, or for anything else, the Foundation has been there. My family and I are hoping to be recipients of the Foundation’s Housing Grant next year. We are going to use it toward building a new house close to town. Right now, I have about a 30-minute drive, so this will help me spend more time with my family. In addition, we have a child with a medical condition that causes him to have seizures. Being closer to home not only allows me to be closer, but it improves the response time for rescue squads for my child if that is necessary.

What is one thing that you think people might not understand about the work the police do?

Last year, in the midst of all of the issues going on here between some members of the public and the police department, we actually had an officer get shot. I happened to be working an off-duty job that day and ended up over at the scene. What most people would never know is that even after that person shot one of our officers, we went in and saved his life. Not only had this man just shot one of our own, but we went in there with a lot of unknowns about the danger we might face, and we saved his life. I have to say, it gets frustrating when, even in a situation like that one, we get called the bad guys.

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Jaclyn Piermarini

"I really enjoyed hearing about everything the police do, and feel like both on a personal level and on a professional level it will help so much to understand their perspective. We are so lucky to have them. We come from all over the country over in this newsroom, and we know how good we have it with this police force. Thank you such much for treating us to an inside look at what they do!"

—Jaclyn Piermarini, Reporter Charlottesville Newsplex