Derby cops work as overnight elves

Joan Van Boening's wood footbridge was built by Derby police officers and replaced one that was destroyed by a hit-and-run driver. The officers made the new bridge after buying lumber with personal funds and then installed it on their own time after their shift ended. 

When police arrived at Joan Van Boening’s west Derby house to take a property damage report of a footbridge, they realized they could do something extra to help – such as restore it.

The bridge, which spanned an open ditch, was ruined by a hit-and-run driver in an incident that happened July 14 at 1011 N. McIntosh.

Van Boening, 84, uses the bridge to reach her mailbox, which also had been hit.

While the bridge was for safety, as it meant that she didn’t have to go out on the dangerous road, it also was sentimental as it and a mailbox were built by her late husband and son-in-law.

“That was a case that tugged at their heartstrings ...,” said Police Chief Robert Lee of his officers. “They saw an opportunity to fix something that may be perceived as a minor thing but what was perceived to her as a huge thing.”

So, before Lowe’s closed that evening, officers stopped by and, with their own money, bought lumber for a new bridge.

After their shift ended at midnight, they spent several hours building a new bridge, taking it out there in the wee hours of the morning and installing it.

And just like that, there was a new bridge, ready to use once again. Van Boening said she was touched by the good deed.

“It was really wonderful of them,” she said. “I was so taken back, I couldn’t believe it. I cried over it.”

She said she was amazed at how quickly the officers made a new bridge and was stunned to see it when she headed out to church Sunday morning.

Van Boening said when she thanked the officers, they said she was “family.”

“It made me feel like someone cared. It really made a difference,” she said.

For his part, Lee was impressed by his officers’ building project, which was completely self-motivated and done for “all the right reasons.”

“It’s a wonderful example of officers caring about their community,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts and it speaks volumes of their character.”

Lee said the officers are humble and didn’t want recognition for their efforts, but he insisted they at least be publicly named.

They are: Sgt. Chad Carson, MPO Chris West, Officer Rooshad Irani and Officer Kayla Sanders.

Lee not only marveled at the speed of his officers’ work – which came after working 10-hour shifts on a brutally hot, sweat-filled day – but their skill, too.

“A couple in that group are accomplished carpenters,” he said. “They built a pretty quality-looking bridge.”

Van Boening believes the incident took place in the early morning hours of that Saturday as a noise woke her up then, but she thought it was part of a passing storm and went back to sleep. Van Boening didn’t know the bridge and mailbox were wrecked until her letter carrier told her the following afternoon, after which she reported it to police.

“It was torn to pieces,” Van Boening said.

It wasn’t totally surprising, she said, as speeding has been a problem along the narrow two-lane road, which used to be in the county.

The culprit responsible has still not been found and the case remains under investigation. Police are asking anyone with information to call 316-788-1557.