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SXU Alum Serves and Protects as True Hero

Officer Calderon receives an award for his heroic service.

All Saint Xavier University (SXU) graduates go on to do great things, and some go on to be heroes. Cook County Forest Preserves Police Officer Javier Calderon '16 used both his skills and compassion to help save the life of a distressed individual who was contemplating committing suicide in one of the preserves.

Calderon and his beat partner were dispatched to a suicidal subject armed with a handgun, and their number-one objective was to stop the individual from committing the unimaginable and to provide help and comfort. As a team, Calderon and fellow Forest Preserves officers applied the crisis intervention training (CIT) they received at the Cook County Sheriff's Police Academy.

"This was a very tense and distressing moment for this man," said Calderon. "Responding on scene to situations like this is never easy. There are many variables that shape and mold the situation, and every situation is unique. Listening, speaking and being compassionate are key."

Calderon listened to the individual explain why he found himself in the distressing situation he was in, and he and his team spoke about positive solutions and outcomes. What was a dangerous situation for all was reconciled through compassion and assurance.

"We all saw a person who was in very deep pain and needed to be heard and comforted. After some time, the man willingly unloaded his handgun and dropped it on the ground. I'm proud to say our training and team effort helped save a life," said Calderon.

Calderon is an army sergeant and has been a member of the U.S. Army Reserves for 11 years. He stresses the importance of suicide awareness, which he received training for in the reserves. He believes that something as simple as a quick chat can pull someone out of a bad state of mind.

"It always surprises me when we're informed we lose more service members to suicide than to accidents and combat casualties. Some people don't realize they are heading down a bad spiral until it's too late. It can be hard to talk about problems and emotions, and 2020 has been a tough year on everyone. We can contribute by promoting suicide awareness and providing safe and comfortable outlets for people who wish to talk or are seeking help," said Calderon.

Like all Cook County Forest Preserves officers, Calderon performs a dual role: He handles both the conventional duties of a police officer as a state-certified police officer and the tasks and duties performed by a conservation officer with specialized training in conservation and ecology from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Calderon serves and protects people visiting the preserves and protects the preserves' natural lands and property by upholding and enforcing all state, county and forest preserves laws and ordinances.

Calderon finds that his time at SXU prepared him for his career with a well-rounded, quality understanding of the criminal justice field in the areas of correction and policing. Since graduating from SXU, he has worked for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and the Cook County Forest Preserves Police Department.

"The courses and assignments I had at SXU undoubtedly provided me with an edge to better understand the fields I work in and have also helped me keep an open mind in the role I play in the overall criminal justice field," said Calderon. "I'll have moments where I am working and all of a sudden a light bulb goes off and I'm like, 'Oh! This is what Dr. Perez was referring to when he was lecturing about broken window theories and how they relate to crime, or, oh! This is how state level and federal mandates affect the juvenile recidivism rates,' and then I'm able to apply what I learned in school."

Calderon enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and dedicated staff at SXU, and he also enjoyed the company of the Student Veteran Alliance. Perhaps most exciting is that he met his college sweetheart at SXU. He finds that his work encompasses the SXU mission of serving every day with compassion.

"SXU's mission and core values definitely play a role in my daily operations and how I treat and care for others on and off the job. Having compassion and being able to empathize with someone who is experiencing a hard time is an important part of the job. And in my line of work, respect goes a long way. You won't go very far without it."

Calderon encourages students interested in entering the law enforcement field to go for it. He completed two internships during his time at SXU, including one with the Cook County Forest Preserves Police, and believes it is the best thing he did as a student. He also encourages students to take advantage of the resources available to them and to continue to pursue their education even after earning undergraduate degrees.

"It can be a challenging field, but it is also very rewarding. If you're just partially interested in criminal justice, minor in it and major in it if it clicks. Or don't – if you change your mind down the road, local law enforcement, state and federal organizations will still hire you. You may bring a different skill set, and most law enforcement agencies give preference points for undergraduate degrees regardless of major," said Calderon.

In the future, Calderon plans to continue to expand his career, pursue a master's degree in a corresponding discipline and continue to make an impact on the people and communities around him -- serving as a hero every day.