BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Through the good and the bad, there are moments of kindness all around us. So we are starting a new segment called “Kern's Kindness” which features everyday people in our community doing something kind.
You may remember the story of a Bakersfield Police officer who, a few weeks ago, responded to a call that took an unexpected turn. And you’ll meet another officer who helped a little boy overcome his fears.
Bakersfield Police officer Aaron Watkins was responding to a noise complaint. Teenagers were playing music in a park late at night when Watkins decided to join in.
“I was walking up and I heard one of the kids playing 'Isn’t She Lovely' on the guitar. I was like, 'Man, sounds good.' I just kind of felt compelled to just, you know, play with them, so that's when I grabbed the bass and started to have an impromptu jam session with them," said Watkins.
Watkins said he grew up with music. His father plays the guitar, his brother plays the bass, and his mother and sister sing. He said he felt a connection to the teenagers playing together.
“I knew they were good kids, just out there having a good time, playing music and connecting with each other. I knew this was an opportunity I could seize and connect with them," said Watkins. "I know it’s something that they'll remember for the rest of their lives and it’s something that will stand out in my career.”
Watkins said he hopes moments like these show community members that officers want to connect with them and that they have more in common than they may think.
“We’re human beings outside this uniform. These officers, they’re human too. They’re just like us. They like the same things we like. We live in the same communities that you guys live in. It’s just really important to seize those moments," said Watkins.
Now meet Sergio Ortega who has only been an officer with the Bakersfield Police Department for two months, but has already made an impact after responding to a call about a little boy being bullied.
The nine-year-old was afraid when the officers first arrived, but Ortega said they bonded over the boy’s Pokemon shirt.
“I started making small talk with him, like, 'Hey I like that shirt you got. Who’s your favorite Pokemon?' We started talking for about thirty minutes about it. I was able to get him to calm down. He was finally able to relax and talk to me," said Ortega.
Ortega said he understood how the child was feeling.
“For me, it was amazing because I know as a kid myself, I didn’t feel like I had that connection with law enforcement officers. So I feel like we were able to connect and he was like, 'Oh, okay, this guy’s my friend. I can talk to him,'" said Ortega.
And the little boy gave Ortega a Pokemon card of his own.
“I made a promise. I’m going to keep this card with me right here in my pocket as long as I’m a police officer. It goes with me every day. When I go on duty, I keep it here just to keep me safe. I made a promise to the little kid and I’m going to keep that promise forever," said Ortega.
Now he’s working to return the favor.
“We’re trying to get donations for this kid, so whatever donations we get, we’re going to try to contact the little boy and give him donations and give him all the Pokemon cards we can get him," said Ortega.
We’re always looking for the next person to feature in Kern's Kindness. If you have someone in mind, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org your idea.