(Just as a neighborhood should not be judged by the actions of a few bad apples, neither should law enforcement agencies. In partnership with the new Community Police Relations Project, The New Tri-State Defender's "Good Blue" column spotlights law enforcement officers who do it right. This week's focus is on Major Anthony W. Rudolph of the Memphis Police Department.)
During an event with security at its most heightened point, this week's Good Blue officer was cool as the other side of the pillow.
It was the NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Championship at the FedExForum and nearby Beale Street was in full swing. Basketball fans packed Handy Park before the championship game between Florida University and Dayton University. Children ran in all four directions.
All the while, Memphis Police Department Major Anthony W. Rudolph took it all in with the trained eye of a 21-year veteran.
"I started out as a PST Officer. PST stands for Police Service Technician. We're the guys that show up first at traffic accidents and things of that nature. We check on the parties involved and make sure everyone is OK and try to get the traffic back going as soon as possible," said Rudolph, who graduated from Christian Brothers University with a Bachelor's of Psychology degree.
I asked how long he worked in that position.
"I worked PST close to a year and a half and I learned a lot during that time. It wasn't long after that when I'd moved on to patrolman and then undercover. In fact, it was during undercover when I met my wife, Karen."
Hold on now, I said. "I saw that smile when you said Karen. Come on give up the goods."
"Oh for sure, I love her," said Rudolph. "I just remembered how we initially met and it was funny. You see when I was doing undercover we needed a young lady under 21 but not over 18 to buy alcohol at problem locations where they sell alcohol to under age people."
"So your wife was the mole?"
"Yeah, she was the mole," said Rudolph. "I mean, she wasn't my wife at the time but that's how we met, and that was way back in 1996 and we've been best friends every since. We actually married in 2009 and we have three beautiful kids."
I wondered if it was hard to have a family as a police officer. "You are a policeman and the truth is any day can be your last day. That truth can be a mountain to a potential love interest," I said probingly.
"True, but like I said, she was on the force as well and so we understood each other and what we did for a living," said Rudolph. "Honestly, Karen is an excellent mother and on top of that she's the kind of person that motivates you and makes you better at what you do, and I'm thankful for that."
Rudolph said he tries to incorporate his family into as many things as he can on the job. Recently, the F.B.I. invited the MPD to its National Academy in Quantico, Virginia and Rudolph was selected to go.
"So me and my family went there together and while I took this 11-week course we had a chance to get out and see a lot of sights together," he said. "I studied very important things such as managing skills, media relations, stress, forensics and leadership while having the comfort of my family being there."
The topics covered come in pretty handy in Rudolph's line of work.
"Yes, as an officer we see many of the people in our community on very bad days for them," he said. "Sometimes we show up and maybe one of their relatives has overdosed or some may have even died in a car wreck. It's at those times that we're basically being a comforter, bringing consolation and making the situation as calm as we can keep it because we can't change it.
"We have to allow medical personnel to come in and do their jobs while (we are) tending to grieving relatives. So no, this job is not all about taking someone to jail," said Rudolph.
"Where do you get the strength and dare I say nerve?"
Rudolph did not hesitate.
"In my faith," he said. "I'm currently studying in the diaconate program of The Catholic Diocese of Memphis to become a deacon. The service of that position and my studying of it go hand and hand for me in what I do as an officer because it's all service with compassion.
"I try to find a way to be of service to someone every day. That's just how I am. If all goes well, I will receive The Sacrament of Holy Order around June of 2016."
I told Maj. Rudolph that I was going to say a few words and that I wanted him to respond with the first thing that came into his mind. No pausing.
Football. "Ole Miss University"
Love. "Compassion for others."
Service. "Giving of self."
Peanut Butter. "Jelly."