0

'Officer of The Year' protects Forest Park

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The corporal calls numbers into the radio with confidence. Sitting in his patrol car in the dusk at the beginning of another shift in Forest Park, he picks up the police radio and says "It's going to be G-2. G-golf, two. It's what sounds like a signal 19."

Then he waits, letting the static take over the lines as dispatch takes the call, waits for the voice to break over the air waves with more information.

For Todd Gladden, 42, learning the radio lingo was probably the easier part of the job when he became a police officer with the Forest Park Department more than four years ago. He'd been a dispatcher for a trucking company for years. That's where he was when he found his second career, and first dream, in law enforcement.

"It just took a while to get around to doing it," Gladden says. "But I finally made up my mind, this was what I wanted to do."

Gladden quickly learned, though, that the job of police officer wasn't exactly what he thought it would be. Going through the academy at the age of 38, the Sharpsburg, Ga., man found he had a lot to learn.

"My perception was from watching movies," he said.

"Ever since I was a kid. Movies I saw, everything was committed and people were caught and everything was solved within the hour. But it's not like that ... My perception, to begin with, was work your eight hours and then when you're done you go home," he continued. "It didn't take me long on this job to realize that's not what this job is like. It's a lot more in depth than I originally thought. It's definitely as rewarding as I thought it would be, but it's a lot more complex and time-involved than I thought," Gladden said.

The corporal was rewarded for his hard work this year with the Forest Park Police Department's Officer of the Year award. He also won the Knights of Columbus' annual, Public Safety Officer of the Year award.

When asked about the awards, Gladden attributes anything he's done to having a great team around him, and, if pressed, admits that he likes to work.

"It's always a team effort," he says. "There wasn't anything special I did."

He has also, by his own account, been at the "the right place at the right time" to make a couple of significant arrests.

About a year ago, he caught man fleeing from a burgled food mart by following a trail of spilled beer.

"The door had been pried open with a jack -- it was a steel door -- and a bunch of beer had been stolen from a display," Gladden says. "I try to think, if I did the crime, which way would I go to get away? How would I go about it? Which way would I go to get out of Forest Park. Well, he had two 12-packs of Corona, but one of the cases had split open and he'd left a trail of beer into the woods. So that always helps."

Still, for Gladden this is just doing the job. He says his family used to get all excited when he first started patrolling, and wanted to know every detail of everything that happened during his day. Now, he says, they realize it's just another day of work.

"They support me, though. They really supported me all the way through and I couldn't have done it without them," Gladden says.

The corporal thinks he might try to take the sergeant's exam, when it's offered next year. But he says he's happy here, patrolling the evening in Forest Park, checking on businesses as they close.

"As far as I'm concerned, I couldn't have asked for anything better," he says and he picks up the radio again. "10-4," he says. "All clear."