Just about everyone has some set of goals they want to accomplish in life. Very few, however, can check those goals off their list quite like Tucker Precinct’s newest police officer.
“I had wanted to do this for a long time,” says Officer R. Mejia. “I’ve wanted to do a lot of little things: graduate college, serve in the military, be on the police force.”
Growing up in Southern California, Mejia says service was something he was interested in from a young age. He recalls attending community meetings with his father, where he watched Los Angeles Police Department officers interact with residents. He was so impressed with the concern they showed for the people in that community, it shaped his life’s path.
“There were a lot of good LAPD cops and they loved what they did, loved the uniform,” Mejia recalls. “These officers were getting the community’s ideas and trying to problem solve, asking ‘what’s best for the community?’”
After studying criminal justice at the California State University, Los Angeles, Mejia decided to pursue another of his goals, enlisting in the United States Army. He spent three years in the National Guard and five more on active duty, completing one tour in Afghanistan and seeing combat action.
“Just about everything we did there is classified,” Mejia says. “It was stressful. You had to see everyone as a threat.”
After serving out a five-year contract this March, U.S. Army E4 Specialist Mejia decided it was time to accomplish another of his goals; he became DeKalb County Police Officer Mejia.
“I was stationed at Fort Benning the last four years and I actually enjoyed Georgia,” Mejia explains. “I was coming up to Atlanta every other weekend. I enjoyed the people here and the cost of living is a lot less.”
Determined to stay in Georgia, and just two days removed from leaving the military, Mejia entered DeKalb’s Police Academy. Upon graduation, he became one of five new officers assigned to work the Tucker Precinct.
“Recruiting and retaining talented police officers who possess the right skill sets for the DeKalb County Police Department and its mission of community policing, while maintaining focus on public trust and legitimacy, is paramount,” says Tucker Precinct Major Greg Padrick. “Officer Mejia fits that mold and he, along with other officers hired by the DeKalb County Police Department, will enhance the ability to provide effective service delivery and ensure the well-being of the Police Department. We are excited to have him on our team.”
How dedicated was Mejia to the idea of becoming a police officer? To hear him tell it, it took quite the sacrifice.
“I actually took a [five-figure] pay cut coming to the police,” he explains, “but I have the desire to do the job. Did it hurt? Yeah. But it’s worth it to do the job.”
Mejia admits police work can be stressful, but he says he’s having fun with it. While the camaraderie among peers is reminiscent of his time in Afghanistan, he says the people he gets to work with in the community are the biggest difference.
“It’s different here in that you’re trying to help people solve their problems,” he explains. “Not everyone is a threat. Not everybody is trying to kill you. Ultimately, you’re actually helping people.”
As a new officer, Mejia has a couple more weeks of working with a Field Training Officer. He’ll be eligible to begin patrolling Tucker on his own on November 16, which coincides with his 34th birthday.
What happens after that is uncertain, but if Mejia’s track record is any indication, it will likely involve setting – and accomplishing – a new set of goals.