Beyond the Badge: Mishawaka D.A.R.E officer Lt. Tim Williams reflects on 34-year career
MISHAWAKA, Ind. --- For most police officers, public service is much more than just a job.
On this week’s Beyond the Badge, we sat down with Mishawaka Police officer Lt. Tim Williams as he steps down from the force after over three decades of service.
He’s been the D.A.R.E officer in Mishawaka schools for the past 20 years, connecting with the community through the classroom.
Williams has taught an estimated 15,000 5th and 6th graders why drugs are bad and has been a mentor for all of Michiana to lean on.
“If I can just reach one child that's, you know, having that time where they don't feel that they belong, they don't feel they're good enough,” Lt. Tim Williams said. “They don't feel that they have a life worth living. Then to me that is success.”
Williams was hired on as a Mishawaka Police officer in 1988 at 21-years-old.
“I wanted to be able to serve my community and to be a part of the community to help them it was to me, that was the thing I wanted to do.”
The job has never been easy.
“Seeing the death was the hardest, giving death notifications to parents and loved ones…those are things that you never want to have to do. And they're honestly one of the worst parts of the job.”
It’s always been rewarding.
“There's so many different things I could go highlight. Helping a mother give birth to a baby on duty. Starting one of the first permanent fitting stations for child car seats in in the State for the Police Department. On top of that being part of the Drug Free Community Council and healthy community initiatives. But I think the most I would say rewarding—becoming a dare officer in 2002.”
Tim spends each day in Mishawaka schools as a school resource officer and is the head of the D.A.R.E program. He focuses on reaching kids at a young age to teach them about resisting peer pressure and the consequences of using drugs.
We followed Tim to Battell Elementary with just days left until his last working day in Michiana and it was business as usual, but also bittersweet. At Battell, he’s back where it all began.
“Lieutenant Williams and I go back to his first year of teaching D.A.R.E.,” 5th Grade Teacher Janine Mabry said. “I was in this classroom, fifth grade at Battell, and he was the new DARE officer.”
“Our students here at Battell see Lieutenant Williams as not only a police officer, but a colleague, as well as leadership role model for them, but also a friend,” Building Principal Dr. Matthew Wood said.
“I just remember, you know, being in the classroom with Lieutenant Williams it was really exciting to have a police officer in there with us teaching us, you know, how to make good decisions,” Hums Elementary P.E. Teacher Chad Roggeman said.
“It's not just a program for him,” Mabry said. “Like it is his heart. He believes and he just lives the message that he gives to the students. He's so emotionally involved in it. And he's given some great powerful messages to children that have saved their lives, I'm sure.”
“Students talk highly about Lieutenant Williams,” Dr. Wood said. “They're excited to see him. He greets them in the morning when he's here. He wishes them a great afternoon and evening.”
Mabry said students describe Williams as someone who cares about them, listens, believes in them and knows they have a great future.
We caught up with Tim on the day of his last D.A.R.E. graduation.
“It's the best part of my job as a police officer,” he said.
It was a day met with smiles, tears and applause for Tim’s dedication the past 20 years.
“When I think about public servants, there is none who have impacted so many lives than Lieutenant Williams,” Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood said.
Mayor Wood said Tim’s impacted well over 15,000 lives, including his own kids.
“I don't always get to be around my kids when they're making impactful decisions, but I know that they use what they learn from Lieutenant Williams on a daily basis and it has made a big difference in their life,” Wood said.
Over the years, Tim’s been recognized for a number of rewards, but for him, it was never about that.
“The reward was being able to see a child safe in a car seat, being able to see a child grow up successfully in the community, coming from a troubled home and to be successful in life, you know, and have their dreams come true. That's the most important thing.”
Tim said he’d love to see the D.A.R.E. program continue.
“The children are our future, and to me, they're the most important thing. We need to make sure we have programs that can give them the best information to make the best choice for their safety and their future.”
For just a few of the many he impacted, they had a parting message for him.
“I wish you the best of luck,” Dr. Wood said. “We will stay in touch. The Battell family is going to miss you deeply."
“His impact on the community after these 34 years as an officer goes unmatched,” Roggeman said. “So we just want to say thank you Lieutenant Williams and happy retirement.”
“I forgive him for giving me my first ticket back about 30 years ago, but no, I I can't imagine this police department or this city without Lieutenant Williams,” Mayor Wood said.
“The men and women that I work with…what a true honor to be able to say that I've worked with some of the best,” Williams said. I definitely would like to thank my family for all the support and sacrifices that they've had to make. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
To the kids…
“I want you to be the best you, you can be. Don't be afraid to ask for help along the way. But most importantly, make that right choice whether it's popular or not for yourself. Because that will help you achieve your dreams.”
“He will live on in legacy, I promise you, in the City of Mishawaka for generations,” Mayor Wood said.
Tim wore many hats for Mishawaka’s Police Department, including media liaison. ABC57 had a chance to get to know Tim very well through the years; we wish him luck and he will definitely be missed!
As for what’s next for Tim, he’s starting a job in Florida as a financial grant manager where he’ll still get a chance to work with and impact youth there.