Blaize Richard, 18, of Jennings, gets a feel for life behind the wheel of a Jennings police car as Lt. Mike Hill explains the finer points of being a police officer. Richard will be sworn in as an honorary Jennings police officer at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 8:01 PM
JENNINGS — The story of a local teen with autism whose dream is to become a police officer has drawn widespread attention.
The story went viral — “It’s gone worldwide,” Angie Richard said — after she used social media to tell how Jennings police Lt. Mike Hill was helping her son, Blaize Richard, reach his dream of becoming a police officer.
She estimates the story has received a half-million hits on various social media websites and has been picked up by news outlets and magazines across the world.
“Somebody I know told me they had even seen it in Kuwait,” she said. “It’s overwhelming. I really don’t know how to take it, but I’m happy because being a police officer is something he has always wanted to do. He’s always been fascinated with police and firemen, and the last two years he’s really been focused on police.”
Blaize’s dream when he turned 18 last July was to become a police officer, she said. But her son grapples with autism, which the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines as a “range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”
“The best I could do was get him the (police) outfit and call the Jennings Police Department to surprise him with a visit,” she said.
To her surprise, the department sent an officer to his house and let him “get the look and feel of a real police car,” making him one happy teen, she said.
Richard said that while the Police Department often gets a “bad rap,” they have gone “above and beyond the call of duty” to make Blaize’s dream come true.
“It’s meant a lot to him,” Richard said. “They made him so happy.”
Blaize was later invited to visit the Jennings Police Department, where he met Hill and the two formed a special friendship, Richard said.Hill calls Blaize his “backup” and lets him ride in his patrol unit.
“Mr. Mike is good,” Blaize said. “I am good friends with Mr. Mike, and I like riding in his car.”
Blaize will be sworn in as an honorary police officer at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park on what the city has proclaimed as “Blaize Richard Day.”
Hill, a 13-year-veteran of the Jennings Police Department, says Blaize is an inspiration to him.
“When I’m having a bad day, he picks me up,” Hill said. “He puts a smile on my face, and I put one on his.”
Hill said he wants to be there for Blaize and share in his dream of becoming a police officer. He visits Blaize at home and at school, where they talk about sports, movies and “police things.”
As for the widespread attention the two have been getting, Hill said he takes it in stride.
“It’s good for the department and the city, but it’s all about him and his day and fulfilling his dream,” Hill said. “I hope he’s having fun.”
Police Chief Todd D’Albor said Hill, named the department’s Officer of the Year in 2012, is dedicated and compassionate.
“He’s one of our best officers, obviously for many reasons — this being one of them,” D’Albor said. “But that is the kind of person Mike is.”