Before reporting for duty with the North Charleston Police Department, Officer Sarah Midgett often took her children to school in the backseat of her patrol car. Eight-year-old Isaac is not fond of the backseat, but 5-year-old, Eli, thinks it’s cool.
It was a morning some months ago, that Midgett saw something along Rivers Avenue that totally impacted her vision of the community she’s paid to protect and serve. While passing the Siesta Motor Lodge, she noticed children waiting on the curb for a school bus. It was a cold morning, and they were all draped in sheets to keep warm.
Where did all those children live? What school did they attend? Do they have no coats?
Midgett, 41, has been in law enforcement for 17 years. Those questions came easily because she’s an investigator for criminal activity in Section 8 housing units. Seeing those children shivering under sheets piqued her motherly and police officer instincts.
Midgett is passionate about a job that allows her to help people where they are. “You don’t do good things to get recognition, you do it because it’s the right thing,” she says.
So that brings us back to the Siesta Motor Lodge.
This stretch of Rivers Avenue is far removed from the trendy neighborhoods near Park Circle and the booming business community surrounding the outlet mall. It is an area long saddled with drug abuse and prostitution. Some of these people live at the Siesta, along with a handful of families with children, consisting of toddlers up to elementary school age.
On any given day, they run along the balconies and ride bikes in the asphalt parking lot.
A little more than a mile or so from this location, Tri-County Family Ministries serves food and prepares bags of provisions for those in need. Midgett offered to help in the serving line one day.
“They had me serving peas! Great, a cop in uniform dishing out large spoons of peas. Who’s gonna like me?” she laughed while telling me of her introduction to this opportunity.
When she was done, though, she asked if there were any bags that might be available for a certain group not too far from Tri-County’s serving location. She loaded the back seat and trunk of the patrol car and headed for the Siesta.
Entering the parking lot, kids and moms started coming from everywhere. “These kids don’t have any say in what circumstance they’re born into,” Midgett explains.
When a police officer does something wrong, those actions are justifiably exposed and a large shadow is cast over those other officers who are doing their job responsibly.
The majority of officers are not racists or thugs. They leave their families every day, uncertain if they’ll return safely when that shift is over.
Midgett makes regular stops on different afternoons to see these children at the Siesta. If some family member has bad credit or a criminal background, this location might be their best option for lodging.
Some days, she just talks to the children and asks them questions. Relationships are being established and seeing a patrol car pull in does not mean everyone should scatter.
“When people see you care, they treat you with respect,” admits Midgett.
It’s a time when our awareness of first responders is especially heightened. Is she the only police officer doing good things? Hardly. But there’s certainly nothing wrong in shining a light on such deeds as we’re all wondering if wearing a mask and washing our hands will ever make us better.
Those little boys who were riding to school in the back of that patrol car should give their mama a big hug.