To hear Anne Arundel County police officer Brandon McFayden tell it, the extra time and effort he puts in patrolling the Brooklyn Park area is nothing special.
"It's an area with a lot of older people, especially a lot of older women who've lost their husbands," said McFayden, 26. "I just like to keep an eye on them. It's not very much."
But to those who work with McFayden, and to those he has helped, he is more than deserving of The Evening Sun's Police Officer of the Year for Outstanding Community Service award, which was being presented today.
McFayden, a three-year veteran of the county force, was nominated by his sergeant from the Northern District.
During an interview with a reporter, McFayden modestly talked about his job. At the time of the interview, he did not know he had been selected for the award, but thought he was only a finalist.
A Glen Burnie native, McFayden said he attended Anne Arundel Community College for about a year after graduating from Glen Burnie High School. Unsure about what he wanted to do with his life, he joined the Army.
"I guess I was like every other little boy," McFayden said. "I used to think about growing up and becoming a fireman or a police officer, but I wasn't really sure.
When he joined the Army, he signed up for the military police. "That's when I decided this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," he said.
McFayden has received special training in quick response for incidents such as hostage-takings. He also is trained to instruct new officers.
Right now, he's training Ken Unitas, son of Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. Said McFayden, "He's going to be an outstanding officer."
As a patrolman, McFayden does everything from writing traffic tickets to breaking up disturbances to checking on robberies. Last November, McFayden went the extra mile in answering a call about an attempted break-in from an 83-year-old woman living alone.
"She was more scared than anything," he said. "She didn't have any family. She was the last remaining one still alive. I just tried to talk to her and calm her down. Some of her locks were real cheap and if someone had wanted to break in, they would have had no problem. So I just went out and got her some new locks and put them on her door. It made her sleep a little better at night. And, I just go around and check on her to make sure she's OK," McFayden said.
He didn't stop there. McFayden has replaced the locks on several homes in the northern Anne Arundel County area with the cost coming out of his pockets.
"It's just a few dollars, and it makes them feel safer," he explained.
Last November, McFayden became involved with another family the Brooklyn area who had become the victims of robbery. A 78-year-old woman who is raising her four grandchildren, ages 4 to 8, found that someone had broken into her home and stolen $500 she had saved to buy the kids Christmas presents, and the food for their Thanksgiving dinner.
Because the family had no transportation, McFayden drove to a church in Glen Burnie to pick up Thanksgiving dinner for the family. He continued to make frequent visits to the family because he became attached to the kids whom he describes as "the most well-behaved kids" he's ever met.
When Christmas rolled around, McFayden bought and set up a Christmas tree for the family, collected money from fellow officers to buy the children a Nintendo set and contacted two organizations that provided the family with assistance.
McFayden's own family even chipped in and bought gifts for the kids after hearing him talk about them. "There must have been a hundred presents for each kid," he said. "It was great."
But, on Christmas Eve, the grandmother was stricken with a heart attack, McFayden said. She remained in the hospital for nearly two weeks.
The kids refused to open any presents until she came home, he said. "They're just a really great family," he said.
The hardest part of his job, McFayden said, is having to inform tTC someone that a family member has been killed. But, while bringing bad news, the officer has managed to bring a helping hand, too.
McFayden said that one family became so distraught over the news of a family member's death that he stayed there for several hours and made the funeral arrangements.
"It was the least I could do," he said.