It takes a while for 5-year-old Payton Duzan to open up to people and share his feelings, but the moment police are mentioned an uncontrollable smile spreads across his face. His mother, Courtney Theis, said Payton’s admiration for police has been around since he was a toddler.
“He was making siren noises before he was able to talk,” she said.
Payton is on the autism spectrum and has a series of complex medical needs, but Courtney knew that didn’t need to prohibit him from pursuing a career as a Jordan police officer for a day. She reached out to Bianca’s Kids, a wish granting organization, to see if they could help Payton realize his life’s ambition.
Bianca’s Kids asked the Jordan Police Department to see if they could give Payton a memorable experience.
“They said they’d like me to give him a tour of the police department,” Jordan Police Chief Brett Empey said. “I told them I could even give him a ride and take him out to lunch.”
Bianca’s Kids offered to donate to the police department to cover any costs associated with Empey and staff dedicating time to Payton, but the department granted Payton’s wish at no expense.
“We don’t need a donation. We’d do this for any kid around here in his condition,” Empey said.
Bianca’s Kids mailed Payton a police officer’s uniform to wear for when he showed up for duty on Aug. 6. Payton was welcomed by Chief Empey, who gave him a complete tour of the police department and demonstrated some of the police equipment with Payton. The department’s office staff created a name tag and put it on a locker, so that Payton had his own locker like all the other officers.
“Each officer has their locker with their name on it and the thin blue line through it, so they made one identical like that for him, so he felt like he had his own locker here,” Empey said.
When Payton returned home, he taped the name tag onto his bed and hung the officer’s business cards on his wall.
“He calls it his police bed now,” Courtney said. “He walks around telling everybody he’s a Jordan police officer.”
Payton also spent time in the chief’s office, making phone calls and using the radioing dispatch via the departments local channel. After his department tour, Payton cruised around town in a squad car with Empey.
The patrol was followed by lunch at McDonald’s, where Payton started to open up to Empey.
“Once we got to lunch he started talking quite a bit ... by the time we sat down at McDonald’s he was cracking jokes,” Empey said. “He said ‘Dispatch, I need backup to McDonalds,’ cracking little jokes like that.”
More than a week later, Courtney said Payton’s time as a police officer is still a main topic of conversation around the house.
“He loved that he got to be a police officer for a day — he thinks he was a real police officer,” she whispers.
Empey said the police department’s role in making the wish come true was a natural fit for their top priority: serving the community.
“We do a lot of enforcing laws, so it’s just nice once in a while to actually touch someone’s heart,” Empey said. “He’s probably going to remember it for a long, long time.”