In this age of unusual unrest and uncertainty, Salem’s 2020 Police Officer of the Year offers a welcome antidote.
“I was taught to be kind, respectful of adults and to treat people the way that I want to be treated, and those are values that I have held onto and practiced my entire life,” says David Goodman, Salem Senior Police Officer. “As a law enforcement officer, people do not always treat you the best or say the nicest things to you, but you can never stoop down to that level.”
Goodman has been killing folks with kindness his entire life. In his current position as the Resource Officer for Andrew Lewis Middle School, his actions and mere presence have made immeasurable impacts on the staff and the student body.
“Officer Goodman plays such a critical role in our school climate,” says Jamie Garst, Andrew Lewis Middle School Principal. “He goes out of his way to build positive relationships with students and staff and he has become an integral member of our Andrew Lewis Family.”
“A lot happens in a teenager’s life in middle school, as they go through all types of emotional and physical changes.” says Goodman. “Just congratulating and recognizing kids on the small things like a new haircut or a new pair of glasses can really go a long way. I do my best to try and acknowledge the little things, because the little things can turn into big things later in life.”
Goodman’s fellow officers named him the recipient of this prestigious honor for the many ways he has professionally and creatively handled himself during the current pandemic. He not only navigated the end of one tumultuous school year, but also the unprecedented start of another.
“At Andrew Lewis, we are fortunate because we could have no better role model,” says Matt Coe, Andrew Lewis Assistant Principal. “In a building full of educators, it is Officer Goodman who teaches the important subjects of kindness, character, and life.”
When COVID-19 restrictions closed school last March, Coe and Goodman began brainstorming ways to continue teaching those lessons and stay connected with their students. They realized that in-person home visits could truly make a difference.
“I look at Mr. Coe as a mentor, and we knew this could really help our kids,” says Goodman. “We get a list of names, create a route, check on these students and offer assistance. It’s pretty rewarding to have kids thank us for stopping-by and to know that they miss us too.”
Currently, the two men average 40 to 50 safe, socially distant porch visits a day with their middle schoolers.
“He takes a personal interest in each one of our students and he not only knows their names and faces, but he knows what they like, what they struggle with and what they need,” says Coe. “He knows birthdays, he knows addresses and he knows parents. When students get in trouble, he is firm and fair and, most importantly, he uses each situation as a learning opportunity.”
Goodman has been learning about law enforcement since he was a middle school student. His dad, Richard Goodman, was a Salem Police Officer from 1993-2004 and during that time, David was a member of the department’s Explorer Post that is designed to give teenagers an up-close look at police work.
“I don’t think I graduated from high school wanting to be a police officer, but I have always had a heart of service to help others and law enforcement has been a way for me to provide that assistance,” he says. “Because of my dad, I always knew the department held its officers to a higher standard and that the Salem community always supported the police. Plus, I always had a passion for working with kids, so this allowed me to be a public servant and work with young people.”
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Goodman was raised in the Roanoke Valley and attended East Salem Elementary for a short time before enrolling in Roanoke City Schools. He spent his high school days at William Fleming and ran track and played football for the Colonels before graduating in 2007. Goodman began his law enforcement career at the age of 20, working for then-Sheriff Ronnie Sprinkle at the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office.
He joined Salem’s Police Department in 2016 and made his mark before graduating from the Cardinal Academy’s Law Enforcement program. While traveling through Roanoke with one of his daughters, he saw a man lying on the side of the road suffering from a gunshot wound. Goodman stopped to assist the man and to also calm and comfort the young children who had gathered near the scene.
“God puts us in different places at different times for a variety of reasons,” he says.
Goodman’s pastor Rev. Melton Johnson can attest to that. He has watched Goodman grow as a man in his First Baptist congregation on South Broad Street in Salem.
“David serves as a trustee and a mentor to our youth at First Baptist,” says Pastor Johnson. “He is conscientious and detail oriented and those traits have allowed him to serve God, the church and our community.”
“I wouldn’t be half the person I am if I didn’t have a support network around me,” says Goodman. “My fiancée and family support me and pray for me and I have had several great mentors along the way who have helped mold me.”
Goodman, 32, is well-aware of the current events that have shaped discussions about law enforcement throughout the nation in the past year. He has seen the violence and he has heard the often-hateful rhetoric. He also has worked to be part of the solution. He and Sgt. Stan Malek lead the Salem Police Department’s community program known as “Culture.” The acronym stands for Community Understanding and Leadership Through Unbiased Response and Engagement.
“I try to understand both sides of these arguments, but to me, all lives matter,” says Goodman. “People want to be heard and ‘Culture’ allows people to respectfully talk to us in a casual atmosphere.”
Goodman admits he is both humbled by and appreciative of the honor his fellow officers have bestowed upon him. He also is particularly grateful to serve in a community that values resource officers as much as Salem does.
“Everybody works together for a common goal in Salem,” he says. “The school division, the teachers, the administrators, and the police department all want resource officers in the schools. It is important for us to be there and I commend Salem for making this a priority.”
“I have known Senior Officer Goodman since he was a teenager and it has been a true privilege to see him develop into the humble, hard-working and loyal man he is today,” says Mike Crawley, Salem Police Chief. “He is unlike many people we currently see in the work force in that he takes ownership of a problem when he sees one and doesn’t wait for someone else to fix it. He has that ‘guardian’ mindset you cannot teach, and we are truly blessed to have him in Salem.”
Goodman will be honored formally by the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce in April.