Making A Difference

Police on patrol in Payson

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For Payson Police Sergeant John Heflin being a police officer is more than nabbing the bad guy or making traffic stops, it is about making a difference in the community.

"It may sound corny, but I want to make a difference in people's lives," Heflin said.

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Sgt. John Heflin, listens as motorist explains a concern during one of the frequent contacts the officer has with residents.

When Heflin was in his twenties and going through difficult times a police officer took the time to talk to him and help, "I wanted to do that for someone else."

Now after 12 years with the Town of Payson Heflin has seen many things, including things he would rather forget, but he feels like he has contributed something back.

"I have had people that I arrested come back and say thank you," he said. "I helped talk them through something and hopefully helped get their life back on track.

Thank you does not happen often and Heflin said being a cop is mostly a thankless job.

"You have to have a strong desire to help people even when they don't want to be helped. This job is not rewarding if you're looking for people to say thank you," he said.

Police officers are often perceived as callus and rude, but "the average officer is going to see more in a year than the person will see in a lifetime," he said.

On any given day an officer may respond to a scene with a person that has passed away and have to notify next of kin and then go home to their family and act like everything is OK.

"There have been cases that linger in my mind," he said. "It takes time to process it all. I spend time with my family and that helps me come back."

Heflin said it is not uncommon for an officer to have problems at home.

First year officer Jesse Davies, said you have to have a warped sense of humor to deal with the daily stresses. Recently, Davies was called to a scene where he found a man that had been dead for several months.

"It is not something you see everyday," Davies said. "It was the most decayed body I had ever seen."

Dealing with sights and smells like these can be overwhelming, Heflin said.

The cop stuff you see on TV happens in Payson, he said.

On a typical day there are two officers and one sergeant patrolling the streets.

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Sgt. Heflin checks his computer screen for active police calls and possible negative incidents that may be areas to watch.

There can be 10 calls holding if police get caught up at one location.

A recent call involving a suicidal man, tied up both officers and the sergeant for more than an hour until the man could be removed from his home and checked into a hospital.

A call involving a death investigation can tie an officer up three hours, he said.

Most calls during the day are civil in nature where officers are not enforcing any laws per se.

"If people don't know who to call, they call the police," Heflin said. "You never know what you are going to get when you respond to a call."

Heflin said working in a small community is more difficult than working in a larger town because an officer has to cover all areas from traffic and theft to homicides. The advantage of covering multiple areas is becoming a more diverse and well-rounded officer, he said.

Currently the department is short four officers. Out of 15 people who recently applied only one made it through the extensive testing process to the academy.

Heflin said the schedule of working long days is not for everyone.

"You can't just take the uniform off," he said.

"It takes 24 hours for your adrenaline to come down." Once the adrenaline subsides you have to go back to work and do it all over again.

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