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50 Badges Bonus: Police work a family affair for Texas officer

Robert Rector works alongside his children in Beaumont, Texas

By Dan Campana

Eighteen years ago, Beaumont Police Officer Robert Rector made the leap.

He’d spent his adult life working in construction, but at 33 with a wife and three children, Rector wanted more. A cop friend told him he should apply with the Beaumont Police Department, which was hiring.

“As I was not licensed at the time and did not have a college degree, I quickly discovered that I had a long, hard road ahead of me,” Rector said. “I made the decision that this is the career I wanted and dove into it head first.”

That move meant a big adjustment for Rector, but turned out to create something of a new family business as his stepson Tyler and daughters Haley and Jenna have joined him in varying roles in the department.

“Being a police officer for the past 17 years has been one of the proudest and most humbling achievements of my life,” Rector said. “However, the one thing that gives me even more pride than my job is the fact my kids chose to follow me in the same profession.”

But it all started with Rector making the change when the kids were young. Driven to get the most out his new adventure, Rector excelled in the police academy by finishing fourth in his class and being named a class leader. He took a job as a reserve officer in Lumberton, Texas, while waiting for Beaumont to reopen its hiring process.

“I worked nearly every weekend absorbing everything I could,” he recalled. “After a lengthy process, I was hired by Beaumont PD in 2001 where I worked as a patrol officer for nearly 12 years.”

Rector describes his patrol colleagues as “some of the best cops in the business” who helped him navigate the learning curve.

“(Because) I was a little older when I started this career, I think I suffered a little culture shock not having known what cops really did out on the street. Beaumont is a town that is just big enough to subject cops to everything that a big city has, just on a smaller scale,” he described. “I’ve been to every call one could imagine. If it’s happened anywhere else, it’s happened here and I’ve probably seen it.”

About six years ago, Sgt. Tim Bean told Rector about a motorcycle enforcement position in the traffic unit. A lifelong rider, Rector liked the sound of the job, although he was torn because of how much he enjoyed patrol. Rector took the job and quickly learned how much the role entailed – it wasn’t just about riding around enforcing traffic laws.

Rector became engrossed in trucking regulations, advanced accident investigations, speed enforcement and as a child safety seat technician. Although deadly crashes are among the most difficult to navigate, Rector said he’s proud to work with an “outstanding team of men and women” who handle the sad task of investigating fatals.

“The unit I’m in is dedicated to investigating these sometimes horrible scenes and bringing the responsible party to justice, hoping it will provide some measure of comfort to the victim’s families,” Rector offered.

Rector, who also worked as a volunteer firefighters for 12 years, realizes that being a police officer is a calling. It is one that fulfills his desire to serve others. Among the things he relishes about the job is the opportunity to be a citizens police academy instructor. It connects him with residents and helps humanize officers at a time when many don’t understand, or even trust, the police.

“I think sometimes people tend to forget that cops are people, too,” he said. “I can’t think of many things I have enjoyed more than teaching this class over the course of my career. Although the subject matter I teach pretty much stays the same when I teach the class twice a year, it somehow refreshes my outlook on why I do the job. I personally believe every profession offers its own level of satisfaction, but nothing can come close to this.”

The love and pride he feels for his children just might be.

Rector talks about Tyler growing from a youngster playing with the lights and sirens at the volunteer fire department, to a Marine who served in Iraq, to currently working in Beaumont’s special assignment unit and being an assistant leader on the 25-person SWAT team.

“Tyler struggled for several weeks before telling us that he wanted to become a Beaumont police officer. Needless to say, I was somewhat humbled that my stepson would choose the same profession I had chosen,” Rector said, calling Tyler’s career “outstanding” so far.

About five years ago, Rector’s eldest daughter Haley told him she had narrowed down her career choice to either a teacher or a Beaumont police officer. He wished Haley a long and happy life as a teacher before she announced she, too, had decided to follow in his footsteps – something he was not thrilled about because of the dangers and what he had experienced on the job.

But, Haley wanted to learn from her father so she could be best officer possible. That convinced Rector she would be fine. She’s worked patrol, in the community relations unit and as the department’s public information officer in a distinguished career to this point.

Daughter Jenna is a “girly girl” who never wanted to be a cop, but eventually found her way into the Beaumont police family after years in the private sector, Rector said. She joined the department in 2016 as a 911 dispatcher handling an “incredibly high call volume for a city our size.” Jenna is also the best shot in the family based on a family target competition.

“Needless to say, all the cops were extremely embarrassed after the only non-cop in the family put us to shame with her expert marksmanship,” Rector said.

Through it all, Rector calls his wife Vicki the “most important link” in the family.

“Over the years, my wife has been an unbelievable supporter of my kids and I. Out of all of us, she is the strongest,” he said. “I can only imagine how much she must worry knowing any day a knock could come to our door.”

With so much history behind Rector and his family – and a promising future ahead of them – he can’t help but wonder what would have happened if had not followed his calling.

“I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. The futures of our lives have many roads laid out before us. It’s up to us to choose the road we will travel,” Rector offered.

Read the entire 50 Badges series here.