This month, we continue our Hero Spotlight series highlighting incredible individuals making a difference in their communities as first-responders. We’re lucky enough to have Melinda Kendall from Kalamazoo, Michigan as our featured hero today.
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Melinda Kendall, a Public Safety Officer with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. The Public Safety Department employs Police Officers, Firefighters, and Medical Responders.
I am a hostage negotiator and part of the crowd management team. I’ve recently become a Peer Fitness Manager supporting others in the department. I’m also a Field Training Officer so when new officers hit the street, I train them.
What's your family like?
I am a recently divorced mother of two of the most amazing humans you'll ever meet. I am the first in my family to be in law enforcement. My kids think it's pretty cool, all of the things I do.
My blood family is the most incredible support system that one could have. Even my blue family, I have the most incredible support system around me. There's no negativity. Everyone supports me and what I do for a living. I have an amazing boyfriend who supports me in everything I do.
My third support system is my church family. My faith has really gotten me through the last 2 years of life, along with their support. God has been good to me.
What inspired you to take up working in this field?
I'm a street officer. In the department, there are many specialty units — addiction, K-9. As far as getting into law enforcement, when I was very young, my middle sister had somewhat of a toxic boyfriend. I remember one time he made her cry. I took it upon myself to call him and say this behavior will not be tolerated.
No one deserved to be treated this way. I felt someone should be able to protect people who don't or can’t protect themselves.
What has been the most memorable moment on the job for you?
I have two. Since COVID-19 hit, specifically violent crimes have skyrocketed. In the summer of 2020, there was a particular incident where there was a young man in his twenties who was shot in the back of the head. He took two 9mm rounds to the back of the head. I was the second officer on the scene.
I was able to have a short, but impactful conversation with this young man. Unfortunately, he did not make it. In the last few moments of his life, I was able to show him compassion and, dare I say, love. I was able to be a calm voice in an absolutely chaotic situation. He was able to exit this world with someone showing him he's a person. He, unfortunately, didn't have his family around him when he passed, but I was able to show him compassion in the last few moments of his life.
I was proud to be highlighted in a few city meetings around that time for my work during that incident. It meant a lot to me that I could provide that moment for him. It was tough, but the most important thing is remaining calm. I didn't make his last few moments chaotic when everything around him was.
The second was recent — November 2021. We had a situation where there was a gentleman with a warrant for his arrest for attempted murder on his girlfriend's sister. We were able to locate him at a house and I was on the scene as a hostage negotiator while field training.
I got the gentleman on the phone and was under the impression we were working toward a peaceful resolution. Something changed with him and he escalated quickly, starting to fire rounds out of the house at police officers. Almost hit a police officer, then almost hit a K-9 officer. I was still trying to establish contact with him as far as negotiations go.
I had a colleague arrive to support me. As my colleague pulled up, the perpetrator struck the police cruiser twice, and those rifle rounds came within two feet of my head. If I told you at the moment, I would have said it was only five minutes, but we were hunkered down for an hour.
We had to be evacuated by a bearcat (SWAT armored car). Which extracted us back to safety. I stayed on the scene for over nine hours playing an auxiliary role. Unfortunately, it did not end well. He was armed with a rifle and had barricaded himself inside the house. He did not make it. Thankfully no police officers were injured, but he did not make it. That standoff was 16 hours total.
How do you spend your time when you're not working?
I spend as much time as I can with my kids. I spend a lot of my time working out. Sometimes my off-duty time is spent with my department on fitness goals, working with new kids in the fire academy, and physical fitness.
I spend time with my amazing boyfriend. We enjoy getting out, doing things, and spending time together. I'm very much a people person. I try to spend time with the people around me and show them how much I love them.
My son is a wrestler so we spend a lot of time at tournaments. My daughter is really into makeup, nails, and hair. We do lots of painting. I spend my time with my support system.
I also do HIIT. You get the weight lifting and the cardiovascular workout. I do not like running, but I love leg day! It's a subprogram they've recently expanded. There were two people, now there are four of us in the program. We're doing our best to get it expanded and reach as many people as we can with as many different types of workouts that people are comfortable and capable of doing.
What's one thing you wish the general population knew about your job?
It's very cliche, but I wish they knew that as police officers, we're people. We have a job to do. In most situations, we encounter people on their worst days. We do our best to minimize the tragedy and chaos going on. We just want to do our job. We don't want to make anyone's life difficult or ruin anyone's day.
When you get pulled over, it's not going to be the best day of your life, but it doesn't have to be the worst. I don't want you to feel like a victim. I want you to feel served. We don't do this job for the badge, gun, or power. We do this for the community. I want a safer place for my children to grow up. We don't want to be the bad guy, we want you to feel safe, sound, and secure.
Anew Advisors Supports First Responders
Thanks to Public Safety Officer Melinda Kendall for sharing her powerful story! See Melinda in action with her fellow first responders in this recent video highlighting the department.
Anew Advisors is dedicated to supporting first responders in our local Milwaukee community and beyond. Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see more of our Hero Spotlights!
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