RANTOUL — Officer Jerry King spoke to the assembled multitude at The Linden Banquet Center about life as a police officer. Much of the time, his son, Raylan, showed the cranky side of a 2-year-old who was in need of a nap.
Raylan isn’t the only energetic character King deals with. King is also the canine handler for the Rantoul police dog, Wyatt.
His handling of Wyatt and his devotion to duty were among the reasons King was named the Officer of the Year by the Rantoul Exchange Club.
Life can be quite interesting for King, who handles a regular shift, keeps Wyatt up to date on his training and occasionally gets called out mid-slumber to bring the canine to help with a case.
King recalls one such call when he and his canine pal were brought in to help convince an armed robber, who was holed up in an apartment building, to give himself up.
The robber had dropped his cell phone at the robbery scene, and officers were able to trace where he lived. Other tenants of the building told police that the suspect was inside.
But the culprit refused to even acknowledge police when they called on him to give up. Officers were about ready to call in a SWAT team. The process had gone on for a couple hours when it was King and Wyatt’s turn.
“I walked up with Wyatt and said, ‘Rantoul police canine unit,’ and Wyatt started to bark a little bit,” King said.
The response was immediate, “‘OK, I’m giving up. Just don’t let the dog bite me,’” King quoted the holed-up armed robber.
“Just like that, it saved a SWAT team call out, which is very expensive. Just right there the dog paid for himself.”
Reside in rural Flatville
King, 34, his wife, Nicole, and Rylan live with Wyatt in their rural Flatville home.
“He’s full of energy,” King said.
He could have been talking about his 2-year-old son, who nearly stole the show at the awards presentation.
Wyatt and Raylan peacefully coexist, but King isn’t taking any chances.
King keeps an eye on Wyatt, who is a Belgian Malinois mixed with a German shepherd, when he is around Raylan.
He said the dog is well-behaved, but sometimes the canine hasn’t hit the “off” switch after he and King get off work, and he’s still a little amped-up.
“I don’t necessarily trust him to be alone with Raylan. He has a ‘dimmer switch’ that’s not always all the way off. That’s what you have to have when you have a police dog. They have to be high energy,” King said.
A native of Paxton and a graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, King — son of Jerry and Barb King of that Ford County community — has been with the Rantoul department since 2013. Police Chief Tony Brown said King has been recognized numerous times by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists for exceptional work. He has also been nominated for Officer of the Year on several occasions.
“The saying, ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’” is true, King said in his acceptance speech. “Just ask any officer here and they’ll tell you I never work,” he joked. “Just kidding. Yesterday I spent the day being bit by angry police dogs (for training). The same guys here today who might say, ‘That’s not really work’ (being a canine officer) are the same guys who say, ‘No way’ when I ask them to put on a bite sleeve for my dog Wyatt.”
King credited his co-workers and said there is a great deal of camaraderie in the department. And he said the variety of the work stands out.
“The first call (of the day) could be working a terrible traffic accident while the next one might be a mother asking advice for an 8-year-old who is talking back to her,” he said.
King’s mother is a longtime employee of the Ford County Sheriff’s Department.
“I used to like to go to work with her and see the deputies and talk to the sheriff,” King said. “The first sheriff I can remember was Ralph Henson. I remember him letting me try on a bulletproof vest when I was about 6 or 7, and it felt like it weighed 500 pounds.”
King didn’t get into law enforcement until he was 28, which he said means he had “several years of experience not being a cop.”
“That helps me see a different perspective than if this was the only job I’d ever done,” King said. “I also had plenty of years of making mistakes and being immature. I use my own experiences to try and show empathy and respect to those who haven’t quite gotten things figured out for themselves yet.”
King said his wife is supportive of his career, and he enjoys telling her what went on at work. But at first she didn’t want to hear the dangerous stories.
“It took her a long time before she would let me come home and tell her stories,” King said. “She said if she didn’t hear about it, she wouldn’t worry about.”
But she has since relented, and now she appreciates hearing about his work.
“It’s fascinating. He comes home with a lot of wild stories for sure,” she said.
“It’s entertaining to listen to about what he’s gone through that day or that week because sometimes we don’t see each other ... that much.”
King works the 3 to 11 p.m. shift, and Nicole works 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Helped with search
One day recently he worked 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. so he could attend a college career day. Nicole had planned an evening meal “like a normal couple,” but as
King was getting home, he was called out to help serve a search warrant. He told his wife he would be right back. He returned for the meal, but then he got called out to help with the massive search for an autistic man. The man was found safe, but King didn’t get back home until 1 a.m.
The schedule is something the Kings have gotten used to.
“When we’re together maybe one or two days out of the week and we haven’t seen each other for so many days, we have so much to talk about,” King said.
“I love that first day off together. It’s great.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing as an officer. King remembers an embarrassing moment when he was training with Officer Rodney Sullivan.
They had received an armed robbery call at the Subway restaurant. As they approached the business through a grassy area, not knowing if someone with a gun was inside, “I stepped on an empty water bottle. It made the loudest sound,” King said shaking his head. “It might have been an atomic bomb that went off; it was the loudest crackle. (Sullivan) stopped and turned around and looked at me like, ‘Seriously?’”
King marvels at his canine partner’s abilities. After cell phones were taken in a November 2017 east side nail salon armed robbery, King and Wyatt were called in to track the robbers, who had run away toward the Bethany Park area.
“Wyatt tracked them to a privacy fence area, and sure enough, there was a pile of four or five cell phones,” King said. “Maybe that’s not arresting somebody, but getting these people’s cell phones back, that’s huge.”
At least two of the robbers were apprehended later in the Chicago area.
On occasion, just the presence of the police dog can aid in a case. King will show up on a traffic stop where contraband is suspected and tell an individual that he has his canine with him, “and they say, ‘OK, here’s what I have.’”
“And I say, ‘Oh, man, I wanted to get the dog out. The dog wanted to get out too. He needs the work.”
As officer of the year, the King was presented a check for $1,000 by the Exchange Club.