Tell me about how you got into police work?
My story is different than a lot of people’s stories. I started this job when I was 41. Going back almost 30 years ago, I wanted to be a police officer. I can honestly say I wanted to be a police officer my whole life. I am originally from Queens, New York. I applied for the NYPD, when I was younger, but then life happened. I went to college, but I decided that working was more lucrative so I was unable to finish my education. I was able to stay at home with my children before my divorce. After that, I had three kids, and I needed a job that would not take me away from them for long periods. So, I went to work for the Fluvanna County Public Schools, first as a substitute teacher, then as an instructional aide for three years after that. After working a number of different jobs, a friend suggested I join the CPD. I went online and applied, even though I knew not graduating from college was going to be an issue. I think my life experience was a huge factor in why I was hired. Also, I have a way of being able to talk to people. I am direct sometimes, but at the same time I am very empathetic and sympathetic, because I have been through what some of the people I work for have been through. I am finally able to do what I have always wanted to do, help others. I feel like everything I have done has been a stepping stone to where I am right now in the Child Victims/Special Victims Unit.
What about police work appeals to you?
I think I have always been drawn to helping people. It has always been what I am, and who I am. My mother always used to say I should have been a nurse. But I always knew I would end up in a job where I would be helping people. I’ve always been the type of person where when everybody else is running away, I would be the one running to help. It’s just who I am. On February 26, 1993, I worked in the World Trade Center during the first bombing. I organized the people I worked with to get out of the building. The bank I was working for was all about backing tapes up, and I was like, no way, we are getting out of here and we are getting out of here alive. I walked down 80 stories that day and I can honestly say I wasn’t thinking about myself.
Talk about your relationship with the community members you serve.
I used to work the Prospect neighborhood as an off-duty security assignment, and I would make it a priority every year that by the time school started, I would know every kid by name. People would constantly be knocking on the door of the substation to say hello or let us know there was food available. There was one lady that would always offer to feed the officers. One night her mother came to visit and the two were blasting dance music and having a good old time. I walked over and knocked on the door. She said, “Oh Detective Hamill, I am so sorry, is it too loud?” I said no, I came here to dance, and danced right up between them!
Talk about some of the misconceptions people have about police?
One, and this one really hurts me, is that as a police officer, I must be racist. I have not had one call or one case in the seven years I have spent on this job where I have thought about the color, the gender, or the religion of the person whom I was going to go see. All I am thinking about is the behavior and what I am going to do to change that behavior. It is a shame that people would think anything differently. My mother told me, before she died, that I should treat every person like it was her. That is exactly what I do. I believe that if you ask anyone in this community how I treated them, they would agree. I can honestly say there is not one person, in this police department, that I would ever say goes out on the street to do anything but help people. Not one person. They all do it to the best of their ability. What we have on the back of our shirts, “Service Beyond the Call,” that is not a joke.