Dateline: Riverside, CA
Joseph Richardson didn’t wait until he was sworn in to find his first arrest.
The moment the 8-year-old boy was fitted with a custom Riverside police uniform shirt and miniature duty belt, he channeled an officer’s quick instincts.
Assistant Chief John De La Rosa waited to read him his oath Thursday morning. But Joseph couldn’t ignore the commotion in the front row.
There were his brothers, playing the role of rabble-rousing suspects. Without a word, Joseph moved in, keeping 13-year-old Michael at bay while calmly placing 6-year-old Joshua’s hands behind his back as he lowered him to his knees.
That would have to do. Joseph hadn’t yet received his plastic handcuffs.
“He’s ready to go out on patrol,” said Riverside police Sgt. Jaybee Brennan, as a room of onlookers smiled and “awwed.”
For Joseph and his family, the officer-for-a-day festivities were a bright spot in an ongoing health battle.
Adopted from Estonia with fetal alcohol syndrome and multiple heart disorders — including pulmonary hypertension and transposition of the aorta and pulmonary artery — Joseph has the cognitive skills of a 2-year-old and faces his fourth open-heart surgery Monday.
Working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County and the Inland Empire, Riverside police helped Joseph realize his biggest dream.
“He goes around making car noises, saying ‘I want to arrest the bad guy’ and the whole nine yards,” said his father, Scott Richardson. “He just started with ‘I want to be a police officer,’ and it never stopped.”
The buzz-cut, bespectacled boy would visit communications headquarters (where he introduced himself to dispatchers as “Officer Joseph”), receive a bagful of toy SWAT gear, play with Rocco, the department’s K9 dog, and be pinned with four stars on his collar.
“He outranks me,” said Officer Adrian Tillett, one of the personnel and training staff who helped plan the day. “We should salute him.”
But the highlight for Joseph, at least based on the enthusiasm in which he undertook the effort, was surely his arrest of a wanted bank robber. He took a flier for the “Paul Bunyan Bandit” — actually Detective Pat Young — and rode shotgun in a pursuing patrol car.
Just outside the department’s Central Avenue hangar facility, he found the imposingly tall “suspect.” He made an announcement over the car’s loudspeaker, “Stop! We’re going to arrest you,” and placed him in the plastic cuffs.
As the day continued, and Joseph got to see the inside of a police helicopter and look through the scope of an MP-5 machine pistol, he wondered where the suspect had gone. The sign of a true investigator: wanting to see a case all the way through.
“He is going to be set,” his mother, Jennifer Richardson, said at one point, watching Joseph switch between his plastic baton, walkie-talkie and SWAT helmet. “He is going to be playing police officer for the next 20 years.”