The recent fatal shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge have had a chilling effect on law enforcement personnel and citizens alike.
We recently met with Stephenville Police Officer Jonathan Walden and his wife Elizabeth – who goes by Liz − to get their reactions on that and learn more about them.
What we found was a couple of deeply-committed people who are dedicated to their faith, service to the community and their two foster kids.
Both Jonathan and Liz hold degrees in criminal justice – and both have experience in law enforcement. He’s a Stephenville police officer and she’s worked in juvenile corrections, but now is an appraisal administrator at AgTexas and is also a small business owner
Jonathan is – like several other officers in the SPD – a “legacy cop.”
“My father, Lee Walden, is retired, but was in law enforcement for 41 years, 28 years with the Addison PD and the rest with the McKinney City Marshall’s Office,' he said. “My brother, Loren Walden, is an officer in North Richland Hills. He’s been in law enforcement for 10 years.”
Asked about her work in law enforcement, Liz says, “I worked in a juvenile detention facility in 2014 for about nine months, but it was just too stressful. In juvenile corrections you don’t have anything with which to defend yourself and I was jumped twice on the job. After the second time, I had had enough."
Jonathan made the decision to become a police officer as a teenager. He says, “I decided that I wanted to be in law enforcement in high school and went to Tarleton to get my criminal justice degree.
“I literally graduated on a Friday and started the Police Academy on a Monday. I was hired by the Stephenville Police Department while in school and went to the police academy for four months up in Fort Worth,” he said.
Jonathan and Liz are deeply religious and Liz comments, “Our faith is very important to us and we are very blessed to be members of the Hico Baptist Church.”
Jonathan adds, “We live in Stephenville, but make the trip to Hico because we love the minister there, Dace Clifton, and the fellowship we have with the congregation. Dace was a police officer before becoming a minister and I consider him to be a mentor because I am following that same path. I’m working on my master’s in divinity, taking online classes through Liberty University.
“The work we do to as police officers to protect the public is vital,” he says, “and I’m very proud of what I do. But I feel called to the ministry and very much want to do it and I will. Nothing is more important than the eternal soul.”
About their foster kids Liz says, “We have two foster children living with us right now, two girls: one is seven and the other is 18 months. We think they are close to being reunited with their parents and are praying for that so their family can be whole again.”
Regarding the killings of police officers in the last few weeks Jonathan says, “The recent murders of the five Dallas Police Officers and three in Baton Rouge just shattered all of us in uniform. We are family, no matter where we’re located and those men were our brothers.
“When our minister mentioned the Baton Rouge killings the following Sunday, I just broke down and sobbed. Liz had to hold me while I cried because it all just came pouring out of me.”
He continues, “They were all hunted down like animals and murdered and every police officer feels it when a fellow officer is killed. We’re members of the ‘Thin Blue Line,’ all of us. It’s been very difficult in the law enforcement community.”
Regarding the response of the community following the killings of so many police officers, Jonathan says, “I’d like to thank the community for the outpouring of support after those police officer killings.
“We have a wall in the department covered with notes and cards wishing us well and thanking us. We’ve been given food and snacks, gotten discounts from merchants. It’s just been amazing and I know I speak for every officer when I say, we don’t take that kind of support for granted.”