Jesus Maldonado is a stickler for details.
Names, physical descriptions, crimes a person may have committed–they all go in a little spiral notebook the 27-year-old Dunwoody Police officer keeps in his patrol car. That notebook, a keen eye and an ability to put people at ease helps Maldonado keep the peace on his beat along a stretch of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard known for crime and gang activity.
“I’m a very pro active officer. I like to look for things and find out what’s happening in the community. I give a lot of information to the detectives.”
Maldonado became part of Dunwoody’s inaugural police force in March of 2009, after spending five years with the Marietta Police Department. Maldonado’s methods have served him, the Dunwoody police department and the community well.
“My main goal was to go in and get to know the community and see what I was dealing with,” Maldonado said of his arrival in Dunwoody. “Once I got comfortable with the apartment complexes it was easy to tell who belonged there and who didn’t. I tried to build a rapport with people, especially if they had information that can lead me to bigger fish.”
His peers voted Maldonado the Dunwoody Police officer of the year for 2009. Maldonado and other officers who were named officers of the quarter were put on a ballot, and Dunwoody Police Department employees voted.
“Very humbling, I put this uniform on every day and give it the best I can,” Maldonado said. “It’s very rewarding when people recognize your hard work.”
His efforts have paid off in another way as well. In April, Maldonado will transfer to Dunwoody’s detective squad and leave the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. morning watch. Maldonado has developed a good rapport with the detectives over the past year, often giving them leads out of his notebook that may help with a case they are working on.
Dunwoody is a community-oriented police force, which fits Maldonado’s style.
“I’m fortunate the chief is very community oriented, and we have special events to help build rapport in the community,” Maldonado said. “I think that’s very important to be able to build trust within the community.”
Despite that trust, Maldonado’s job is not without some degree of danger. He has been fired upon once during his tenure in Dunwoody and had a couple of close calls while on the force in Marietta.
Last May he and another officer went on foot patrol in an apartment complex known for drug activity looking for anything suspicious. While they were walking along a wooden fence that separated one apartment complex from another, four or five gunshots were fired in their direction from the other side of fence. Two suspects were caught but no gun was recovered.
In Marietta, Maldonado was called to a domestic dispute between a mother and her 23-year-old son. Maldonado found the son holding a bloody knife and talked him into putting the weapon down. He then discovered that the mother had been stabbed, and she passed away on the way to the hospital.
“That hit me pretty hard,” Maldonado said. “They train us to encounter all kinds of things. When I joined I knew I was going to see all kinds of things I probably didn’t want to see. You’re trained and prepared to take a person’s life if you need to, to protect a third party or yourself.
“It’s not easy. You have to learn to overcome it and know the next day you could see something worse. You have to be on constant alert,” he said.
Maldonado has a good support system with family members in law enforcement. His fiancée has police officers in the family and his brother is a Cobb County detective.
“If I need to get something off my chest I can talk to my fiancée about it,” Maldonado said. “She’s used to it. Or I can talk to my brother, or the guys here.”