Andrew Dys

Officer says it's her duty to help, even off the clock

Rock Hill police officer Trista Baird recently played Good Samaritan when she helped two women change a tire.
Rock Hill police officer Trista Baird recently played Good Samaritan when she helped two women change a tire.

It was rush hour a week ago Friday, just after 5 p.m., and Sarah Jones from Chester was on Heckle Boulevard in Rock Hill driving to see her mother in a nursing home. In the passenger seat sat her 85-year-old aunt, Mattie Orr.

Jones is 60.

The passenger-side front tire blew out. Jones was able to get the car to the side of the road as the traffic whizzed by.

"Never changed a tire in my life," Jones said.

A lady who said her name was Tina Hardin stopped in the middle of the road, Jones said, and got out to help. The lady had a young boy of about 7 or 8 with her.

Dogs from across the street started to chase after the ladies, Jones said. The dogs finally were corralled by their owner.

Hardin started with the jack, and up behind Jones's car came a Rock Hill Police Department car. The officer put on the flashing blue lights so nobody would hit Jones' car, or the patrol car, or the people.

Out from the car popped the officer. The first thing seen is blond hair. The second is the pearl earrings. The third is yes, it is a lady officer; she is young and about 5 feet 6 inches tall, and she is smiling.

Officer Trista Baird, 23 years old.

Granddaughter of a police officer, 2005 graduate of Winthrop University who started out as a dispatcher then became an officer. She started as a patrol officer with the department in April after finishing the police academy and had been on her own -- Rock Hill officers ride solo and take their cars home after the shift -- for all of three weeks.

Baird had just worked a 10-hour shift on patrol. She handled assaults and calls for service and who knows what other crises that day. She had been on calls in her four months on the job, and three weeks by herself, where she was yelled at and called names and worse.

It was hot.

Baird could have driven right by that afternoon and gone home. She was not required to stop, said the captain who runs the patrol division, a guy who has stopped after work for strangers for 33 years himself, Charles Cabaniss.

But she did stop.

"The lady needed help changing the tire," Baird said. "The jack needed to go in a certain place."

Baird didn't tell the lady, but told me, that when she got her driver's license a few years ago, her father made her rotate all four tires so she knew how to change a tire.

The tire was changed.

Jones said she tried to give Hardin something, or something for the boy, for stopping.

Hardin declined.

"I gathered she was teaching her son how to help people," Jones said.

Jones didn't know how to find Hardin, and I couldn't find her, either. Baird, the police officer, didn't know Hardin's name, either. Baird didn't know Jones's name until I told her.

Baird didn't stop that day because she was dispatched to stop. She didn't stop to file a report.

Baird, like Hardin before her, stopped to help somebody.

Jones thanked Baird, who said she was happy to help.

"What I saw that day was two fine ladies who stopped to help somebody," Jones said. "The police officer said it was her job to help people. There are good Samaritans out there. I know it. I met two of them. They changed my tire."

Cabaniss said Baird's stopping makes him proud as a police officer and as her supervisor.

"We all should be proud," Cabaniss said.

On Saturday, the Rock Hill Police Department will hold an open house and career fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I don't know who will stop there or call the department at 326-2433 and ask for more information.

But I sure hope that Trista Baird is there Saturday. And anybody who wants to help someone out in life as a police officer gets a chance to ask a 23-year-old blonde-haired rookie lady cop how big a smile was worn by a 60-year-old lady from Chester and her 85-year-old aunt as they drove away in safety.