Law enforcement officers take time to help

OKEECHOBEE — People are accustomed to law enforcement officers responding to emergencies, but several local officers went above what’s required of them last week just to provide some much-needed help.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) deputies, Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD) officers and on-duty dispatchers not only gave of their time, but they also reached into their wallets to help.

Things started Friday, Aug. 5, when OCSO Deputy Corporal Michael Hazellief was asked to respond to the lobby of the sheriff’s office. When he arrived, he met with a 51-year-old man who reported his Social Security check had been stolen.

The gentleman was deaf and could not speak.

So, Cpl. Hazellief took the man to another part of the building where they could sit at a table and converse by written word.

As the deputy ‘listened’ to the man’s problem, he learned the man had recently moved but he had been going back to his old residence to pick up his check. But, his August check had not arrived.

“When the check wasn’t there, he thought someone had stolen it,” said Cpl. Hazellief. “He told me he had gone to the post office and completed an address change form. I contacted the local post office and spoke with a supervisor. She checked and found there was no current address or forwarding address for (him).”

At that point, Cpl. Hazellief decided to contact the Social Security office.

“We called Social Security, which is a task in itself, but we talked to an amazingly nice person and she really tried to help. But, because he couldn’t speak, she couldn’t do some things for me,” said the deputy.

Cpl. Hazellief then tried to make an appointment for the man at the Social Security office in Port St. Lucie but the earliest date he could get in was Monday, Aug. 29.

“The person helping suggested (he) go to the office on Monday as a walk-in client,” offered the corporal.

The next hurdle to be crossed was contacting the man’s landlord.

“He was afraid he was going to be kicked out of his house. You could see on his face how scared he was,” said Cpl. Hazellief.

So, on Saturday, the corporal went to the mobile home park where the man lives and explained to the park manager what had transpired.

“When I explained it to her, she said ‘don’t worry about it.’ They were very helpful,” said the OCSO deputy.

Now, all the man had to do was get to Port St. Lucie to get his check situation straightened out. But, he had no money for gas. So, Cpl. Hazellief helped with that problem also.

Cpl. Hazellief said Friday, Aug. 12, everything has been taken care of and when contacted by text message the man told the deputy, “I’m good.”

The next situation arose Sunday, Aug. 7, when Deputy Matt Crawford handled a domestic call. While investigating the call, the deputy learned the mother had saved up $60 that was to be used to buy school supplies for her three children. But, the money was stolen.

Matt and one of the children.

Deputy Matt Crawford and one of the children.

“Matt came back with the story and told the whole shift some friends needed some help,” said OCSO Deputy Sergeant Randy Thomas, who is the shift supervisor of OCSO’s A Squad in the road patrol division.

The A Squad deputies all pitched in, as did dispatchers who were working and OCPD officers who were on duty. In all, Deputy Crawford was able to raise nearly $300 for the children.

Then, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) chipped in another $300 for the kids as part of their Shop With A Cop program.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, deputies took the children shopping at local stores where they purchased school supplies and clothes.

“I was very proud of my shift, the P.D. and the dispatchers. And, I was very happy with Matt for taking the bull by the horns,” said Sgt. Thomas. “It was really neat and awesome.”

Yes, it was.

Attempts to reach Deputy Crawford for comment were unsuccessful.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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