McCrabb: George Floyd murder drives Middletown woman into police profession

Jamie Patterson, 28, a 2010 Middletown High School graduate, has been hired as Middletown's newest police officer. She was sworn in two weeks ago and is training with Keith Maxwell, a 23-year veteran on the force. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Jamie Patterson, 28, a 2010 Middletown High School graduate, has been hired as Middletown's newest police officer. She was sworn in two weeks ago and is training with Keith Maxwell, a 23-year veteran on the force. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

There was a time when Middletown’s newest police officer was unsure about her future.

After graduating from Middletown High School in 2010, Jamie Patterson studied criminal justice at Miami University, then dropped out.

“Something pulled me back,” she said. “I lost interest. I’m thankful because I wasn’t ready.”

Then the 28-year-old took classes at Clark State and withdrew three credits shy of earning her kinesiology degree. She then started coaching cross-fit.

Nothing was fulfilling.

“I could never find my passion, my purpose,” she said.

Then on May 25, one of the darkest days in U.S. police history, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers responded to a call that George Floyd, a 46-yearold Black man, had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.

Cell phone video showed Chauvin pinning Floyd to the pavement with a knee for more than nine minutes. Last week, a Minneapolis jury, after deliberating for 10 hours over two days, found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison when sentenced in eight weeks.

Patterson, like the rest of us, watched the disturbing cell phone video of the arrest that sparked protests around the country.

It was time to be a cop, she realized. Time to serve her community. Make a difference.

“Policing gets such a bad rap,” Patterson said. “I wanted to change someone’s opinion on policing. I’m a huge believer in the Lord. I asked, ‘What am I supposed to do? Why did You put me here on Earth?’ Everything since then has been a straight path. I just had to find it.”

Patterson graduated top of her class from the Butler Tech police academy. She applied with the Middletown Division of Police and went through the grueling hiring process: written test, physical, panel interview, background test, polygraph, psychological test, another polygraph and medical examination.

“Not an easy process,” said Middletown police Chief David Birk. “She came out of the process. We love that she’s a Middletown girl. We like to see those from the community that want to make the community better.”

She was sworn in two weeks ago by Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron during a ceremony attended by her husband, parents and young brother.

There are 68 police officers in the Middletown department and 12, or 18% , are females, according to records. Nationally, females make up 13% of police departments.

Birk said female officers are “unbelievable communicators.”

Just last week, Patterson and her field training officer, Keith Maxwell, a 23-year veteran on the force, responded to a domestic violence call. Patterson said the female was reluctant to talk to police about the incident.

Patterson told the woman about the alleged abuse: “We don’t put up with this behavior.”

After that, Patterson said, the woman trusted police.

She called working as a police officer in her hometown “such a huge honor.”

Patterson has run into classmates and friends during her first two weeks on the job. They have messaged her on social media.

“That suits you,” one person said. “That’s what you should be doing.”

Patterson agreed. “You have to be made for this. You have to be born for this.”

For the next several weeks, maybe months, Patterson will ride with Maxwell. His job is to get her “ready to work on her own.”

She knows there are risks associated with being a police officer. Especially now.

When she gets up, she prays. When she gets home, she prays.

“I don’t know who has a gun, who has things in their mind to ambush police,” she said. “I don’t know. Going home is a good day to me.”

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