When Dayton police officer Jermar Rayford did the Superman while dancing to Silentó’s Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) at the Taste of All Things Oregon Sunday, it was about more than just busting sweet moves.
Rayford said it was about being a human like the humans he is sworn to serve and protect.
He takes being a cop very seriously.
“People laugh, but growing up I had a thing for Superman. What more perfect job than being a police officer?” the 23-year-old Dayton native said. “I know I am not bullet proof, but I think police officers are superheroes.”
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The 2010 Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School graduate has become a local celeb of sorts since Dayton businesswoman Shawon Brown-Gullette and others posted videos and pictures on social media of him doing the Whip, Nae Nae and the Stanky Leg to Silentó’s hit dance song at the Oregon District food and shopping festival.
He had been at the festival to recruit others into the Dayton PD and took a dance break at the urging of a DJ. A man and woman joined him.
Rayford’s impromptu dance was the buzz of the festival, and I wrote about it Monday on my Dayton.com blog.
Dayton police Lt. Andrew Booher said interacting with the community is exactly what he wants his officers to do.
Rayford seized the opportunity to build community and police relationships, he told me.
Too often the only interaction between police and citizens comes when there is an problem.
Booher said Dayton police are encouraged to not only go to community events, but interact with the community.
“(Don’t) only patrol the streets, but if you have a few moments, stop and talk to a child. A few moments with a child can change their life projection,” he said.
Building stronger ties between police officers and the community has been an even hotter topic in the face of public scrutiny of law enforcement due to a string of police shootings of unarmed blacks around the nation.
And the men and women in blue have been under incredible stress in recent days. Four police officers have been killed in the line of duty in this nation the past nine days.
Booher said community policing has been emphasized since police Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl took the city’s top cop spot eight years ago.
This isn’t the first time Rayford has been caught on video being awesome.
The Sinclair Community College and Central State University graduate first caught my attention when a video of him playing basketball with a group of kids surfaced.
“My main thing is to be the cop I wanted when I was a kid,” Rayford said. “I would have love for an officer to come out and played basketball when I was a kid, do dances with me. Just being proactive in the community’s life.”
Rayford’s childhood definitely wasn’t perfect.
Jericia Stevens, Rayford’s mom, was just 15 when she gave birth to him. His father Henry Rayford was only 17.
Rayford credits him mom and other women in his family for making him the man he is today.
“She (Jericia) graduated high school and went to college and got her bachelor’s degree,” he said. “In my family, we don’t have many male role models. I was raised by women, a village of women.”
The eldest of his mom’s three kids and the third oldest of his father’s nine, Rayford said he had relatively small run-ins with police officers when he was a kid. His father and others in his family have been incarcerated.
Rayford said he was on the honor roll at CJ, and family members encouraged him to be an engineer or doctor.
The thought of being that community superhero appealed to him, and he just couldn’t imagine himself behind a desk.
“I am a thrill-seeker,” he said. “I want stuff to be different every day.”
In putting on the uniform, he finds himself a role model not only to those in his family, but people in the entire community.
“You have to have the mindset that you have to excel,” he said. “I don’t want to be the letdown, so I have to get down.”
On a personal note, Rayford is expecting his first child, a daughter, with his girlfriend.
He says he has much to offer the community and wants to be known for more than just his dance moves.
Police officers are part of the community if they are on a police call or not, Rayford said.
“I want my community to know who I am,” he said.” I am just a normal human like you.”