A holiday night act of charity two winters ago led to high honors on a spring afternoon in the White House Rose Garden for two Kansas City police officers.
And the president’s thanks.
On Tuesday, Christopher Skinner and David Loar were among nearly three-dozen officers who had been singled out by their peers as “Top Cops.” They helped a homeless man get his life back together.
During a routine call on New Year’s Eve 2007, they found him asleep in a hallway near the parking garage at the Antioch Shopping Center.
“I never thought an alarm call would lead us to Washington, that’s for sure,” Skinner said after the ceremony, still in awe of where he was and all the high-powered attention. “What often is pretty mundane turned into this.”
“Unreal,” Loar said.
Besides President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder also attended the ceremony sponsored by the National Association of Police Organizations.
“This is difficult moment for our nation,” said Obama, standing before an audience of the officers’ families and supporters. “But I’m heartened by the folks who are standing behind me who’ve demonstrated today by acts of selflessness and bravery what it means to be responsible … what it means to serve. I’m honored to welcome you to the White House.”
The peaceful setting of the Rose Garden was a counterpoint to the stories of violence and heartache that lay behind the award winners.
The homeless man who Skinner and Loar aided was a 70-year-old retired truck driver who had been living hand to mouth for seven years. He had no identification because his wallet had been stolen.
So they helped him re-establish his name to qualify for Social Security. They also helped him obtain nearly $1,000 in back payments, found him an apartment with a discount on the rent, personally paid for a hotel room while his new home underwent repairs, and made sure he had food and clothing.
Now he is living on his own and has not sought publicity.
Kansas City Police Chief James Corwin said in a statement that Skinner and Loar expected no recognition and “used their own money and their own time to bring dignity to another human being,”
They didn’t just jump in feet first to help the man, Loar said. They talked about what to do and met with him several times.
“Our initial gut feeling was this is somebody who actually needs the help,” he said.
Being a cop, Skinner added, “you become a pretty good judge of character.”