Officer Steve Downie
Tulsa (OK) Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Steve Downie, of the Tulsa (OK) Police Department, as its Officer of the Month for December 2000. Officer Downie is currently assigned to the department’s Mounted Police unit.
Like many high school students, Steve Downie had not yet chosen a career path, when an opportunity arose that would alter the course of his life. As part of community service program, a police department on the outskirts of Los Angeles offered high school students the chance to participate in a ride-along program. Officer Downie will tell you that after just one day, he was hooked. He set his sights on becoming a law enforcement officer and has never regretted that decision. After high school, he received his Associates Degree in Police Science from the Cerritos Junior College in Norwalk, California and shortly thereafter relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma to begin his career.
Officer Downie has worked in several areas within the department, including Patrol, the K-9 unit and the SWAT team and has been the recipient of numerous awards and commendations. Just three short years after joining the department, he was nominated for the Tulsa Police Department’s Officer of the Month award, an honor which has been bestowed on him three separate times since 1988. He has received the Medal of Valor and Purple Heart from the Tulsa Police Department, the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oklahoma Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, as well as its National Law Enforcement Citation.
In May 1989 Officer Downie was assigned to the department’s K-9 unit. His instructor, Senior Police Officer Dick Hobson soon became a trusted mentor, as well as a good friend. Downie refers to Hobson as the “big brother I never had” and says, “Dick spoon fed me the training required to work with the dogs.”
With more than 17 years on the department, Officer Downie had never drawn his weapon. The possibility of a gun battle had crossed his mind many times and he often contemplated what the scenario would be and how he would react. Unfortunately, in June 1996, Steve Downie would learn firsthand the terror of an ambush and the sacrifice so many officers are called upon to make.
On the evening of June 10, 1996, the police were called to an alley to search for a man carrying a shotgun. The gunman was believed to be one of three suspects wanted for the robbery of a local restaurant earlier that day. After patrolling the area in their cruisers, the officers left their vehicles to seal off the alley with crime scene tape. At that point shots rang out and before the officers could even return fire, Officers Hobson received a mortal gunshot wound to the chest and Officer Downie was shot in the legs. Although seriously injured and unable to see the gunman, Officer Downie fired off seven shots in the direction of the gunman’s muzzle flash. He had no idea of the severity of own his injuries, nor that the wounds suffered by his friend and colleague were fatal. Three other officers in the alley exchanged gunfire with the suspect, striking him several times, resulting in his death.
It took many months for Officer Downie’s physical wounds to heal. In all the times he had speculated about a gun battle, the idea of losing a friend had never entered his mind. The pain and damage to his legs was insignificant to the loss he suffered when Dick Hobson died. Remarkably, he was never bitter nor ever thought of leaving the job he loved. Rather he vowed to be a role model for younger officers, as Hobson had been for him.
On the one-year anniversary of the shoot-out, a local paper ran an article about Officer Hobson’s killer, a young man with a long history of mental illness, who had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals most of his life. For the first time Officer Downie learned that the gunman’s father had been a K-9 officer in Montana, who was medically retired from the police force having received injuries in a shooting a decade before. Struck by the irony of this, Steve Downie reached out to the parents of the young man who had shot him and killed his partner. Although he himself had never had a child, he imagined the pain of losing their son to be unbearable, particularly under the circumstances. He wanted them to know that he understood their pain and that he grieved for them. It was important that they knew he was not angry and had moved on with his life.
Officer Downie credits his ability to cope with the shooting and its aftermath to the support he received from the Tulsa Police Department. Upon his return to work he requested the special training required to become a member of the Critical Incident Response Team, which is tasked with responding to critical incidents involving police officers. As such, he is now able to lend moral support to officers experiencing trauma, such as having been wounded in the line of duty.
In 1999 Officer Downie was assigned to the Uniform Division North Patrol. His then supervisor, Sergeant Bill Gore, states “He actively sought subjects known to have open warrants, with an emphasis on people with a history of violence. While dedicating himself to this important task, he did not neglect his regular assignments.” For 1999 Officer Downie led the department with 160 felony arrests and served 191 felony arrest warrants. He made 99 misdemeanor arrests and served 305 misdemeanor warrants. Also that year, he received a commendation from the department for locating a homicide suspect. Officer Downie continues to assist with the training of new recruits in the department’s Situational Reasoning exercises.
Downie and his wife are involved with the Homebound Ministry of their church and volunteer countless hours with the Meals on Wheels program. Sergeant Gore refers to him as “the very epitome of what a police officer should strive to be and he is an example of what our nation needs and expects from its law enforcement officers.”
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.