Officer once helped by a cop now does the helping

BY MICHELE MURPHY

Lorain County – North Ridgeville police officer Damir Kuduzovic reveals that his dad was “not in the picture” when he was growing up in Lakewood. However, a Lakewood cop named Will was.

Will was the department DARE officer, a Federally-funded drug awareness and safety program that placed specially-trained officers into school settings. He was also Kuduzovic’s basketball coach.

He says that Will made a big impression on him, so much so that Kuduzovic decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Before he applied for a position in any department, he says he would search their website looking to see if they had a commitment to community service programs. North Ridgeville did. It was Operation Open Heart.

The mission of the organization appealed to him as it linked school-age boys to police officers and firefighter/paramedics through a week-long overnight camp during the summer.

Fellow officer Lt. Tony Lee had been involved in Operation Open heart a number of years and, when he heard the rookie patrolman was interested, Lee sponsored him into the organization. That was four years ago. Kuduzovic says he and the nearly two dozen other police and firefighters who volunteer their time to the program “look forward to it.”

“In law enforcement, you see so much,” he said. “Coming here brings back all the reasons we wanted to become a cop.”

Kuduzovic says he had the opportunity to seek out Will 13 years after they first met to let him know he had become a police officer, in part, due to the positive influence he had on his young life.

He says that he has begun to know some program participants pretty well because they have participated for more than one year, pointing out one boy who was attending camp with his two brothers.

“We have a stereotypical view that we can help all, and that’s really not possible. Having an effect on even one makes it worth it.”

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