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Policing is not just a job; it is a lifestyle

The brotherhood of law enforcement knows no boundaries.

A Natchez native and Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy proved that last Saturday while on a weekend trip to New Orleans with his fiancé.

CPSO patrol deputy Walter Mackel said he didn’t think twice when he went switched from off-duty tourist, to on-duty brother.

Mackel said he and his fiancé were driving down Canal Street, when he saw two New Orleans Police Department officers in a foot chase with a fleeing suspect.

Most people would probably perk up at such a scene but stay out of the matter or find every excuse not to be involved.

But when you’re a second-generation police officer, taking care of business is not only in your blood, but it’s in your bone marrow, too.

“You don’t think about it, you just go into straight work mode,” Mackel said.

“We saw them chasing him, then they sort of disappeared and then the guy came back, but we didn’t see the officers.”

Mackel said he instinctively told his fiancé, Pamala Michelle to stay in the car. Then he leapt into action.

Mackel jumped out and intercepted the suspect.

The man couldn’t see what was coming and certainly didn’t think the non-descript man in shorts and a Mountain Dew T-shirt was a threat.

“He was too busy looking over his shoulder,” Mackel said. “He was pretty nice sized. He was a little bigger than me, but that didn’t stop him from eating the dirt.

“I tackled him and got him on the ground,” Mackel said.

As the pursuing officers caught up, Mackel said he told them he was a law enforcement officer and helped keep the narcotics trafficking suspect subdued until the officers could get handcuffs on him.

Mackel said one of the officers said, “You can be my hero,” for lending them help.

“I’m just paying it forward,” Mackel said. “The same thing happened to me before when I was working in Adams County, another off-duty cop helped me.”

“There’s too much happening these days to not stop and help a fellow brother out,” Mackel said. “They say it’s a thin blue line, but it’s thin but it runs deep.

“You may work for a different agency, but the uniform is cut from the same cloth, the badge from the same metal.”

Despite the attention that a video posted on social media has drawn, Mackel shrugs off the attention.

“Nothing heroic was done. It’s things we all do every day,” he said.

Mackel’s father, Robert Dawson, retired after many years with the Natchez Police Department.

“I sort of grew up in it,” Mackel said.

He’s been working in local law enforcement for nine years, having started after serving more than seven years in the U.S. Navy.

“It’s a truly a calling; It’s not just a job; it’s a lifestyle,” Mackel said.

But for those of us not involved in law enforcement what he did — and what thousands of other law enforcement officers do day in and day out to keep us safe — is heroic.

Mackel could have just watched the chase like dozens of other passersby.

He could have used an excuse not to act.

“If we were in the middle of Canal Street, I would …”

“If I was in my jurisdiction, I would …”

But he didn’t. He saw a problem and knew he could help and he did.

Deputy Mackel showed the world last Saturday that he’s not afraid to jump in and help.

Thank God for he and other law enforcement personnel and the good examples they set.

Now certainly not all of us are trained and in the physical shape to help apprehend suspects with law enforcement officers.

But we’re all faced with opportunities in our lives, opportunities to make a difference in the world around us or in the lives of others.

The question is: Do we have the strength and the will to jump into action, or will we just look out the window and watch the problems from the safety of the front seat, with our doors locked and the windows rolled up?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.