Some people are born to serve – their community, the nation, or some other cause. Maybe they join the military and defend their country, or maybe they join the police force to protect their community. Perhaps they teach, educating our future. Every once in a while, someone like Officer Lendell Hood comes along and does it all.
Hood is an educator, patrol officer for the Michigan City Police department, and Air Force veteran. He was born and raised in Gary, Indiana until he moved to Iowa at 15-years-old. He finished high school and tried college for a year before moving back to Gary where he worked as a housekeeper for St. Mary Medical Center. After a few years he decided to pursue something new, which led him to the Air Force.
“I got to a certain point and age where I didn’t want to be a housekeeper. I wanted to do something [new],” Hood said. “At the time I wasn’t joining [the Air Force] because I wanted to serve my country; I was joining because I wanted a job.”
After talking to a recruiter and committing, things at his hospital job started transitioning and he felt compelled to get his new start as soon as possible. He had originally been scheduled to leave for service in December of 1995.
“I believe that at the time, the Lord told me to leave early,” he said. “I talked to my recruit, Sergeant Willy Watkins…and I shipped out in October of ’95. I believe it was the grace of God that had me shipped off to basic training in San Antonio, Texas.”
The Air Force quickly left its mark on Hood, allowing him to see the world and grow as a person. During his service, he spent time in Germany, Turkey, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. Eventually, his military career brought him back to the Region where he worked as a recruiter in Valparaiso not long after 9/11. He also earned a degree in criminal justice administration and then left the Air Force, deciding that it would be best for his family to pursue a career outside of the armed forces.
“I couldn’t find a job right away, so I actually worked at Wal-Mart for about 3 months,” Hood said. “I believe that God called me to law enforcement. Mitch Daniels, the governor at the time, created the Indiana Gaming Commission for the regulation of casinos. I was one of the very first agents to be hired in that new organization.”
Hood enforced gambling regulations in Hammond and Gary casinos for a time before deciding that he wanted street experience with law enforcement. He relocated to Indianapolis where he worked for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department for three years. Hood then moved to Michigan City in 2010 where he has remained ever since. He takes a very personal approach to law enforcement and firmly believes that an encounter with the police can turn a life around.
“I believe that America is a place of second chances,” he said. “We are a forgiving country. The Bible talks about how someone doesn’t want to be a bad person; they don’t want to do wrong. They make mistakes. When I arrest somebody, my job is to say ‘Hey, you’re going to go through a process, be remorseful, be repentant, it’s not over. Tomorrow is a new day.’”
During the school year, Hood teaches criminal justice and is involved with the Michigan City Youth Leadership Academy. Even when he is on patrol, much of his work involves kids. He makes a habit of keeping his window rolled down so that he can talk with the community and see the kids he teaches out in the city. Being a police officer means much more to Hood than simply enforcing the law; it means bettering the community and changing lives.
“A lot of kids don’t have a strong support system, and I believe that if you don’t reach out to kids at a young age, you’ll have problems in the community as they get older,” Hood said. “But if you impact one person’s life and give inspiration to them, then they’ll inspire someone else. It’s a chain reaction.”