For University Police (UP) officer Richard Curry, it’s important for officers to maintain a certain set of values while serving their communities.
“First and foremost, you need to have respect — not only for yourself but for your peers, the community you serve and everybody you come in contact with,” Curry said. “You need to … lead by example, (and) you need to be loyal, honest and have integrity.”
The other Hillsborough County first responders who were also honored for their exemplary service to their communities at the 21st annual Our Heroes Luncheon at the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday likely shared these values.
Each year, the event planned by the Tampa Police Department recognizes and gives awards to public safety officers who have consistently gone above and beyond in their service to the public throughout their careers or who are deemed heroes for specific acts of valor.
This year, the luncheon honored 16 Hillsborough County emergency workers from 11 different departments, including firefighters, paramedics and police officers.
“I feel privileged and honored because I was recognized by not only my peers but the citizens and the community (of) Hillsborough County,” Curry said. “It is an honor to be able to be recognized for the things you do on a day-to-day basis.”
Curry was honored for rescuing a mother and her daughter from a submerged car with the help of two other UP officers last May. He said there was a significant amount of flooding at the time, and this obscured a drainage ditch between a USF parking lot and East Fletcher Avenue, causing the mother and daughter to become trapped in their car after inadvertently driving into the ditch.
By the time Curry and the two other officers arrived, the inside of the car was already mostly submerged, and the doors were inoperable.
“(The water) was … pretty much up to (the occupants’) chests,” he said. “I took off my duty belt and jumped inside the ditch to try to get them out of the vehicle. … We were able to pull them out through the windows, and we gave them some blankets and our jackets until medical personnel arrived and were able to transport them to the hospital.”
Curry and the other officers were awarded the UP Agency Valor Award for their actions, and Curry received a Crime in Progress Award for preventing the theft of copper wire from a TECO electric facility near USF that same year.
He also received the UP’s 2014 Officer of the Year Award after being nominated by his peers and supervisors. UP Sgt. Drew Caffarelli said Curry is a model officer, as he not only gets along with his peers and does his job without complaint but is also great with the USF community.
“I’ve known Officer Curry for about five years now,” Caffarelli said. “Personally, he exemplifies what we want here at the agency. He is a good well-rounded officer. He’s level-headed, has good decision making abilities, and when he’s called to do the job, he does it very well and very professionally.”
Curry, an officer with UP since August of 2009 and a member of the Florida National Guard, said he wanted to become a police officer to help people living in troubling situations due to his own experiences in his childhood.
He said he and his parents moved from state to state when he was growing up in order to escape drug dealers his parents owed money to, and he often had to call the police to remove him from harmful situations. However, he still felt officers were unable to help him as a child.
“I felt like … there wasn’t much (police officers) could do,” he said. “I made the decision to become a police officer and make a difference in people’s lives and … give them the resources they need to succeed in life (because) I don’t feel like I was offered that as a child.”
Currently a department Field Training Officer and a member of UP’s Tactical Response Program, Curry said he plans on continuing his career in law enforcement and one day becoming a patrol supervisor over the next 25 to 30 years. He said this position would allow him to further work with his community, as well as lead other officers in their service.
“That’s my ultimate goal,” Curry said. “I just want to … help communities, help agencies and help citizens every day for the rest of my life.”