Fixing a basketball net exemplifies Arizona officer’s approach to helping others.
By Dan Campana
Standing on top of his police SUV, Buckeye Police Officer Joshua Haley couldn’t help but draw attention to himself, yet he did it anyway to help a young boy.
A day earlier, Haley – a seven-year veteran of the department situated in the suburbs west of Phoenix – met the boy after finishing up a call in a residential area. The boy, somewhere around eight or nine years old, was playing basketball in a park on a hoop with an unforgiving net. Every shot he made, the ball would get stuck, so the boy tossed a shoe to dislodge it.
“The boy would hit the basketball and it would eventually fall out. I kept watching him do this … then I told myself, ‘Yeah, I gotta help this little guy out,’” Haley recalled.
Haley approached the boy, made small talk for 10 minutes or so and shot baskets together. Again, the ball continued to get stuck in the net after each successful shot. Haley joked that, even though he wasn’t too much taller than the boy, he used his not-quite five-foot, seven-inch frame to jump up and knock the ball loose.
After spending some time together, Haley recognized two things. First, that he’d return the next day to help fix the net. Second, this was a good kid who showed respect.
“I appreciated that very much,” Haley, who works patrol, shared. “Unfortunately, we usually deal with kids who are disrespectful, so dealing with this little guy was a nice experience. Kids are amazing. When I’m working and get the chance, I try to say hello or talk with them about their day.
“These kids are our future. I want to make a positive impact in their life and show them that cops aren’t just out here to arrest bad guys. We are normal people just wanting to help others,” Haley said.
That’s why Haley returned to the same neighborhood the next day at the end of his shift, as promised, with a new net for the hoop and a new ball for the youngster. A hoopster himself, Haley knew what it would mean for the boy to get a brand new ball.
Before anything else, Haley stopped at the boy’s house to introduce himself to his parents. They were appreciative of his kindness, he explained, adding that the boy’s mother wasn’t sure what to make of her son’s story about playing basketball with a police officer.
“The parents explained they were new to the neighborhood and weren’t used to an officer doing anything like that,” Haley said. “I told them that (officers in the department) try to get out and have positive interactions with the public.”
Haley returned to the park, where the boy offered a joyful reaction to the items Haley bought.
“When he saw the basketball and the new net, he thanked me and gave me a hug,” Haley recalled.
After talking with the boy about helping others and what it means to “pay it forward,” Haley went to work.
“To get the net fixed, I parked my police Tahoe underneath the goal and hopped on up. The boy was laughing at me while doing this, saying ‘Don’t fall!’” Haley remembered.
Haley said he’s swapped out basketball nets a few times in his day, but this dried-out, rotted one presented a bit of a challenge. After nearly an hour on a warm day, Haley’s tired fingers got the job done – but not before a passerby spotted him and asked to take a photo of this unique moment. Haley said the photo went viral thanks to local media attention.
“It’s not every day a police officer is standing on top of an SUV on a basketball court,” he said.
With the net replaced, there was only one thing left to do.
“We shot some hoops for a few minutes,” Haley said. “I told the boy to be safe and I headed home to end my shift.”
Hearing Haley’s story, you can’t help but believe this isn’t the first and only time he’s gone out of his way to do something beyond the ordinary to serve the public. He’s a believer in the Golden Rule, doesn’t let the negativity swirling around law enforcement get to him and is convinced the majority of people support the police.
For those reasons, he says he does what he feels is right to help and respect the people he encounters.
“I listen to them and empathize with their situation. I also make myself remember that I took an oath to do what I can to protect and serve each citizen of my community. I believe that oath and strive to make sure I uphold it,” Haley, also a member of the department’s SWAT team, explained. “So, choosing to help this boy and do something nice for him wasn’t even something I had to think about – it was just the right thing to do, so I did it.”
Inspired years ago by his brother – a fellow Buckeye police officer – to become a cop, Haley also gives credit to his deep religious faith for putting him on this path.
“I believe God has guided me in my life and, as God says in the Bible, love one another and help others. I believe this pushed me toward the life of a police officer,” Haley shared.
After seven years, Haley has seen plenty, but remains undeterred in his commitment. In fact, his appreciation for the profession has grown.
“If anything has changed regarding what it means to me to wear this badge, I would say (it’s) the understanding that the badge represents something bigger than myself and what agency it says I work for,” he explained.
Read the entire 50 Badges series here.
(Photo courtesy of the Buckeye Police Department)