Halos and Holsters. Kindness flowing in the streets.
Monday, July 15, 2019
By Judy Pearson
Some police officers face a call that leaves them forever changed. For Phoenix police officer Jacqui MacConnell, one of those calls changed hundreds of lives as well. In 2003, she responded to a case involving three children. Two were 5-year-old twin boys who had spent their entire lives in a cage. Their older brother hadn’t fared much better. MacConnell’s heart broke.
“I wanted to help those kids — and so many others we saw facing hardships — any way I could,” MacConnell said. “I wanted to create an avenue for officers to go the extra mile for those they came into contact with during their shifts. And I wanted to do it without miles of red tape.”
So in 2009, she launched Angels on Patrol with three main goals. First, the organization allows officers to help community members during and after an immediate crisis. Most people they encounter are below the poverty line. If the head of a household is arrested, they’re left even more destitute. Officers can request financial help from Angels on Patrol for the basic necessities in life, hopefully giving families the ability to take the next step to improve their situation. Officers also provide referrals for long-term resources.
Secondly, Angels on Patrol provides a change in the perception of law enforcement. “Officers often come into contact with people at their lowest of lows,” MacConnell explained. “The last thing they expect is for us to be able to provide them assistance. Their view of us changes, and it becomes a lasting change.”
Finally, the organization helps community youth with enrichment opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. These include a Junior Ambassador program, paying for kids to have music lessons, and programs like the Bully Patrol Squad (which was started by a student through their school resource officer). Angels on Patrol has even supplied food during these activities.
“Our vision is to enhance law enforcement efforts by enhancing quality of life for the community,” MacConnell said. “But we also enhance officers’ lives. The job we do is difficult. Making positive changes in the lives of others gives us a real boost as well.”
In its 10 years, Angels on Patrol has helped 15,000 individuals Valley-wide. The organization has paid for high school graduation gowns, and assisted a high school senior who was living on her own and raising her 14-month-old daughter while working and trying to finish school. Angels on Patrol has fulfilled the dream of a young girl by sending her to a STEM camp. Her brother had been diagnosed with cancer, and she wanted to become a doctor.
A Maryvale woman watched her daughter and granddaughter die from gunshots in her front yard. At first, she had little faith in law enforcement. But one of the officers — also an Angels on Patrol board member — helped her find resources to work through her shock and grief. That woman now considers the officer one of her kids.
Of course all that wonderful work requires funds, which Angels on Patrol raises through donations and a variety of clever events. Pistols and Pistons was a car show that introduced the organization to an entirely new group on donors. And Field of Dreams is a flag football tournament, with teams of police officers playing one another. Another is being planned for this fall.
For MacConnell and her team, the results of Angels on Patrol’s work almost leaves them speechless. “Those three boys who inspired me to start this organization were adopted by a wonderful family. I’ve stayed in contact with them all these years and I’m happy to report the two younger boys are about to turn 20 and graduated from high school last month. Their older brother just earned his second undergraduate degree from NAU and is preparing to go for his master’s.”
MacConnell marvels at all she and her team of angels have accomplished. “Our organization has been blessed from day one. Our dream is to expand our work statewide,” she said.
For those facing the dark side of life, MacConnell and her team are truly angels.
To learn more, go to angelsonpatrol.org.