Patrolman James C. Woodward
East Greenwich (RI) Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Patrolman James C. Woodward of the East Greenwich (RI) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for February 2001. Patrolman Woodward is currently assigned to the department’s Patrol Division.
James Woodward grew up knowing he had the love and unconditional support of his family, however, when it came to choosing a career, his parents were less than enthusiastic about their son becoming a police officer. James’ father, Lieutenant Donald F. Woodward, had retired from the Warwick (RI) Police Department, where he had served honorably as a motorcycle officer. He and his wife knew first hand the danger their son would encounter if her pursued a career in law enforcement and they encouraged James to consider another occupation. A compromise was struck and while James attended the Community College of Rhode Island, he served for two years as a Reserve Officer with the Narragansett (RI) Police Department.
The allure, however, to follow in his father’s footsteps was just too strong. In 1998 the Woodwards looked on with pride as their son graduated from the Police Academy and embarked upon his lifelong dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. That day Officer Woodward received advice from his father that would ultimately shape his career. Lieutenant Woodward said, “James, never get lax at work, always keep your wits about you. That way, you’ll never get hurt.”
Patrolman Woodward soon learned how to assess any given situation and could tell immediately when something was out of place. Within a year of his graduation, he came upon a vehicle parked in an area in which he knew it just did not belong. Instinct told him to wait and see who would come to retrieve the car and his patience paid off. When the owner returned carrying large loads of what turned out to be stolen goods, Patrolman Woodward was able to apprehend the suspect and was personally responsible for preventing the theft of $7,200 worth of merchandise.
Over the next couple of years, Patrolman Woodward would continue to hone his skills, never forgetting the advice his father had given him. He was doing what he had always wanted to do, to help and protect the people of his community. His training and instincts would be put to the test the evening of December 23, 2000. Although he will tell you he responds to emergencies for a living and did nothing out of the ordinary, his quick thinking, and disregard for his own personal safety saved the life of a 63-year-old woman.
While off duty, Patrolman Woodward, his wife, sister and brother-in-law were returning home from a Christmas party, when he spotted a fire blazing along the interstate. They soon realized that the flames were coming from a car driven by Marie Desautel that had been struck by a jacknifed tractor-trailer. Not seeing anyone near the vehicle, Woodward and his brother-in-law, Anthony Curcio, raced to the car and found Ms. Desautel fighting to free herself from the inferno. The men could see that her hands and feet were bleeding and that she was she was very shaken. The bitter cold weather did nothing to mask the intense heat from the blaze. Knowing they had little time to get her out, Patrolman Woodward reached in and pulled Ms. Dasautel from the car. Within seconds the car exploded and was engulfed in flames. Patrolman Woodward provided first responder medical assistance while waiting for the rescue squad to arrive. Another passerby was able to get the driver of the tractor-trailer safely out of his rig.
Detective Mark Force of the Pawtucket (RI) Police Department was on his way home from his shift when he happened upon the accident scene just after the explosion. In a letter to the Chief of the East Greenwich Police Department he stated, “There is no question in my mind that Patrolman Woodward saved the life of that woman that night. Patrolman Woodwad displayed great courage and fortitude in the successsful rescue of Ms. Desautel and in doing so brought honor not only unto himself, but to your agency as well.” For displaying initiative and bravery beyond the call of duty, Patrolman Woodward was awarded his department’s Life Saving Commendation. Although still recovering himself from the loss of his beloved father, Lieutenant Donald Woodward, just four months prior to the rescue, Patrolman Woodward states his joy that holiday season came from seeing Ms. Desautel back with her family for Christmas.
Patrolman Woodward, who averages 13 arrests per month, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the Fraternal Order of Police. He and his wife, Leeann, have one daughter.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.