Police Officers Use Nails Instead of Bullets

More often than not, when you hear about police on the news it's when something bad has happened. But this next story is different. Twice a year Houston police officers volunteer their time and labor to help some of the city's most needy. As Bill Stamps reports, they're using hammers and nails instead of guns and bullets.
Sergeant Bill Barren is in a poor section of Houston, standing in the backyard of 75-year old Willie Chandler. But Sgt Barren isn't looking for any bad guys.

"I am building a set of stringers for some steps."

(sound: cutting)

Sgt. Barren is among a handful of other officers on the scene. Not a crime scene, it's a giving back to the community scene. In this case, they're building a ramp so Willie Chandler and his wife can have wheelchair access in and out of the house. Lieutenant Alfred Pitts is also helping.

"When I was younger, our family didn't have much material-wise, and so this just gives me a chance to give back from how God's blessed me and my family."

While they cut and hammer away, the home owner Willie Chandler sits inside on the couch watching through his window. He's also watching Divorce Court on television.

(sound: Divorce Court)

Willie says the ramp will make life much easier.

"I can go down the straight way, and I don't have to be trying to lean on the side and I won't be scared I'm going to fall."

Some of the officers have been helping out for several years. They usually work on one house at a time, twice a year. Captain Mark Curran picks which homes they work on.

"Last fall, because of Hurricane Ike, we weren't able to do anything. Because our officers were working double duties and so forth, we kinda couldn't do the fall program. So this year, when everybody got stabilized, we decided we'd come back and we'd do two houses."

Police officers are the ones who go after the bad guys. But sometimes when they're giving out tickets and doing their jobs, people see them as the bad guys. But if you want to know how Willie Chandler feels, all you have to do is see the smile on his face as he watches his new ramp go up, then it's back to Divorce Court.

Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.