SALEM, Va. – If you’re walking the halls of Andrew Lewis Middle School, you’ll find a friendly face: Officer David Goodman.
He’s been a school resource officer there for the past three years, following in his dad’s footsteps who also worked for the Salem Police Department.
“I can make, feel like I make a difference,” said Goodman.
But Goodman’s making a name for himself as Salem’s 2020 Officer of the Year.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by my peers,” said Goodman.
Principal Jamie Garst said Goodman redefines what school resource officers should be.
“He knows everybody’s name. On a normal year, he would have a handshake with just about every kid that came in the building,” said Garst. “He goes out of his way to reach out to kids and he seems to have a knack for kids that need it the most.”
Chief Mike Crawley said the profession needs more officers like Goodman.
“We can teach them to be good officers, we can’t teach them to be good people,” said Crawley. “So we want to start off with good people and David embodies exactly what we’re looking for in officers.”
The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on students, so Goodman, the assistant principal and a guidance counselor visit 40 to 50 students every week just to check-in. They also deliver food to families who rely on the school’s food pantry.
Goodman also helped launch CULTURE, an initiative to connect with the community.
“The purpose of that is to allow people in our community to come and have a conversation with us about issues that they may have with law enforcement and hopefully we can come up with a common solution,” said Goodman.
In a year of social unrest and tension between law enforcement and the public, Goodman said he understands what they’re going through as a Black officer.
“I take this opportunity to try to bridge that gap, being an African American and as a police officer,” said Goodman. “To let people in the community know that they can trust us and they can talk to us.”
Goodman knows interactions with police can be negative, but he wants to find the positive in everyone.
“Regardless of what the situation is, I try to find some kind of positive out of that encounter,” said Goodman. “Whether I’m there to arrest you or just to give you advice, when I leave that encounter, I want that person that I was dealing with to know that, ‘Hey, this officer really cared about me and my wellbeing.’”