For Thomas Cagle, the Knightdale Police Department’s 2015 Officer of the Year, a part of the job always goes home with him.
He doesn’t mind, though, because of the relationship he has built with Echo, the K-9 officer he works with every day.
“Every day that I get with my partner is the most rewarding part of my day,” Cagle said, “even if he is a dog, so to speak.”
Cagle, 26, who has been with the Knightdale force since December 2013, took over as Echo’s officer in September, making Cagle responsible for Echo’s care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s very simply as if you have a pet of your own that could potentially save someone’s life,” Cagle said. “It really becomes almost a best friend type of bond.”
Cagle realizes that Echo could even safe his own life against a potentially violent suspect, making a potential aggressor think twice.
“There’s a whole other level to contend with with a police dog,” Cagle said.
But Cagle said Echo’s value to the force goes beyond enforcement and deterrence. He is also a great ambassador for the force, especially with children.
The police can sometimes be intimidating to the public, Cagle said, but Echo bonds with children immediately and is always a big hit at police events.
It gives the department a “direct connection” with children, he said.
He can be getting a meal with Echo and a conversation will come up about the dog.
Knightdale police Chief Lawrence Capps said it was this dedication to the job that made Cagle stand out when nominations for officer of the year were considered, along with advancing the department’s mission and core values.
Capps said Cagle shows the instincts of an officer who has been at it much longer than he has.
“Thomas has always been one of our highest performers in the department.” Capps said. “He sees details from an investigatory standpoint.”
Cagle was born in Raleigh and grew up in Smithfield, graduating from Smithfield-Selma High School.
He grew up in a military family and his first dream was to join the military, but because he takes care of his grandmother in Smithfield, leaving home was not an option, so he turned to police work as a close second choice.
“Law enforcement seemed to be the very next calling for me,” Cagle said.
Before joining the Knightdale force, he worked part time in Pine Level, a small force in Johnston County that has only five full-time officers, and for the State Capitol Police.
Many of his instructors and fellow students at the Police Academy were from Knightdale, which drew him to the department, along with competitive salary and benefits.
At his previous jobs, Cagle said, he had a greater sense of what to expect from day to day.
“The biggest difference, as a whole the town is in rapid growth. The town as a whole, the department, we’re learning,” Cagle said. “It’s very lively for a smaller town, so the community portion is a bigger part of what we do.”
Cagle is responsible for Echo’s obedience and agility training. Calls extend to tracking, narcotics and article searches, both for Knightdale and for other agencies with which the department has mutual aid agreements.
“It comes and goes. There’s no pattern,” Cagle said. “There are some shifts where you have to grab your food on the go and some where you’re barely needed.”
When he is not at work, Cagle is dedicated to physical fitness, and he helps disadvantaged and disabled children work out, including boxing and mixed martial arts, at gyms in Smithfield.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826