Sgt. Brice Woolly named APD 'Officer of the Year'
Sgt. Brice Woolly was selected as the Ardmore Police Department’s ‘Officer of the Year’ for 2020.
After the award was announced earlier this week, Woolly said it was an honor sheerly to be nominated by his peers.”That in itself, to me, is rewarding that someone else that I work with said, ‘Hey I think you’re doing a good job and need to be recognized for it’,” Woolly said.
Growing up, Woolly said he always wanted to do something where he could make a difference in peoples’ lives. Although his father was in the law enforcement field, Woolly said he didn’t always know that’s what he wanted to do, but after graduating college he felt called to the job.
“I want to look back and see that maybe I did improve someone’s life along the way or helped someone,” Woolly said. “It does sound cliche, we say we want to be an officer to help people but it’s very true. That’s the upmost reason that most people want to be a police officer and that’s what it was for me.”
He started out at the Tishomingo Police Department nearly 25 years ago. “Believe it or not it was April Fools Day of 1996 when I got hired on,” Woolly said. Six years later, he joined the Ardmore Police Department.
Not long after Woolly came to Ardmore, he encountered a man who would greatly impact his perspective on his career, and who would unsuspectingly become a good friend. Woolly said he arrested the man for driving under the influence.
The man went to jail and several years later Woolly ran into him again. “He told me, ‘You really changed my life for the better’,” Woolly said. Around the time he was arrested, the man had lost his father, was going through a divorce and was struggling with a drinking habit.
But he thanked Woolly and told him the incident had helped him turn his life around. “That was kind of an ‘Aha’ moment for me,” Woolly said. Just about a week ago, a similar situation arose where he ran into a man he had arrested in a burglary case.
The man noticed him at a convenience store and came over to shake his hand, telling him that he been going down the wrong path before he was arrested and was now married and has a child on the way.
“He didn’t really come right out and say ‘Thank you, I appreciate everything you did,’ but I think that was his way of saying ‘Hey you made a difference’,” Woolly said. “It doesn’t happen very often, but those two times over a 20 year career is enough. It’s worth it at that point.”
Throughout 2020, Woolly said it was the little things that made him feel accomplished, and continue to influence his career. Being able to comfort a woman after she had accidentally closed the door and locked her young child in the house; or being able to bust the window out of a car while the driver was unresponsive and posing a safety hazard to the public are just a few incidences Woolly recalled.
The recognition as Officer of the Year is welcome after a rough year for law enforcement across the nation, where the national perception of law enforcement was largely negative, Woolly said.
“I hope with all of this stuff, with 2020 being kind of a low point for law enforcement, I would hope that law enforcement as a whole would start looking and saying, ‘Okay, we were kind of in a bad spot’,” Woolly said. “When you’re in a low point in your life or in your career I think you can say, 'Okay, we’re at a bad point, we can go nowhere but up from here’.”
Woolly acknowledged that there have been some bad things happening with law enforcement across the county, but said he hopes that going into 2021 they can focus on improvement, gaining the community’s trust and keeping those lines of communication between the community and law enforcement open.
“Because ultimately that’s who we serve, that’s why we’re here,” Woolly said. “It’s important for us to have a support group around us, whether it be in the city administration, whether it be in the community-- and I think we have that here in Ardmore and I think that’s what makes our job that much easier.”
Woolly said he could also not do the job he does without the support of his family and his wife. “My wife has been instrumental in keeping me on the right track, if it wasn’t for her, I would probably have thrown in the towel years ago,” Woolly said.
Rather than just him being honored as Officer of the Year, Woolly said he feels that the recognition should go out to the entire Ardmore Police Department, and those who make the effort possible.
“It’s really not about me, it’s about the police department as a whole — it’s about our community as a whole because it’s really a group effort,” Woolly said. “We’ve got a lot of good officers, a lot of young officers and I wouldn’t be able to do my job without that team effort.”