Rodney Jarman, detective with the Pikeville Police Department, is trying to spread holiday joy however he can.
Every year since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Jarman has collected gifts for local children to commemorate the young lives lost in that tragedy. He collects 20 gifts - one for each child killed - and distributes them among children he has run across during his work.
"I started it when I was in Mount Olive, and I think about the kids I've run across over the years," he said. "The kids who I've seen on domestic calls, who only see law enforcement when things get really bad. They see us, and then maybe we're taking mommy to jail or daddy to jail. So I try to remember those kids, and they form the pool I pull from when I'm giving the gifts out."
This year, Jarman decided to step things up a notch. He was contacted by a few women at Wayne UNC Health Care, who told him that they were planning on doing a "breaking and entering Christmas" for a co-worker in which they would sneak into her house and decorate it for her while she worked. While the call was initially just to advise law enforcement about what was going on in case any calls came in, Jarman decided he wanted to be part of it.
"I told them I'd go with them, so people would see a patrol car out there and maybe we wouldn't get any calls to start with," he said. "When we got there, I decided I wanted to help out, so we went and decorated the whole place."
The woman in question is a single mother of two, Jarman said, which made helping out all the more meaningful. Jarman works three jobs -- in addition to his work in Pikeville, he works at Lowe's part time and also works for the Ayden Police Department -- and so he has the funds to help those around him.
"I'm fortunate, I'm blessed to have the means to go above and beyond in helping out," he said. "Yeah, I work a lot, and I don't have the time to do everything I'd want to do, but it lets me take what I have and spread it around a bit."
Jarman has also purchased several gift cards recently which he has given out to people on his beat. During relatively insubstantial traffic stops, for things like a broken taillight or minor speeding, Jarman has given out a warning and a gift card instead of a ticket. He said he hopes to spread a positive image of law enforcement in a time when police are often criticized and insulted.
"I'm not looking for a pat on the back, I just want to get a positive message out about law enforcement," he said. "It just feels good to be doing right by people. We're not the bad guys."
Jarman said he and Pikeville town administrator Lisa Pate are already working on next year's program. The same women who he worked with before donated presents back to his cause, leaving him with 50 to give out, and he hopes to continue that momentum next year. He credited people across the field of public safety for giving back to their communities frequently.
"This is not an isolated incident," he said. "There really are some great people in public safety, and I just want people to focus on the positive stuff and not so much on the negativity.