CHANDLER, AZ — This month, ABC15 is featuring police officers who grew up in the same communities they now serve.
Lieutenant Michael Prendergast with the Chandler Police Department is one of them.
He graduated from Chandler High School and after serving in the Marines, decided he wanted to be a police officer. He says his father, who was also a police officer, suggested Chandler.
“He suggested it because he was much older and wiser than me,” Prendergast said. “He knew the kind of the development that was going to happen, he knew that it was going to grow and had a good tax base and it would be a good place to start a career.”
Twenty years later, Prendergast is still with the department, often driving by his parents' house on occasion. He says while the neighborhoods haven’t really changed, no call is ever the same.
“Over the course of 20 years, probably no short than 1,000 times had your heart broken seeing things you can’t control and not happy to see,” Prendergast said. “(But) every bad call, bad in terms of emotional strain it takes on you, you end up meeting some great people, some lifelong friends you don’t expect.”
One thing that has changed -- the city has a review board made up of citizens who look over use-of-force complaints.
Also, every officer has a body-worn camera, which is something not all departments in Arizona have.
Prendergast says the cameras have not only helped the department be more transparent with the public, but they've also shown him what type of officers he’s working with.
“What keeps me going, when I’m watching video of somebody who’s pulling a toddler out of a pool and giving them mouth-to-mouth and working CPR until the fire department shows up. I mean I can’t do that, that’s my Achilles' heel, and then they shrug it off like it’s no big deal and go to the next call.”