In this episode of Beyond the 1st Response, Robyn and Christy have a discussion with Zion, IL Police Officer Matt Thornton. He talks about what it’s like to be working the very same streets on which he grew up. Thornton went from a cop in crisis to a cop in Christ, giving back to the new generation of street kids finding their way, through his non for profit My Father’s Business
It’s funny to hear a cop has a rookie season, but it is a season of a career that takes you from one extreme to another. Hitting the streets as a rookie was harder for Matt than most. With Thornton’s own family affiliated with the streets, after making it into the police department, the family turned away while some of the officers on the force turned their backs. Determined to prove himself, he forged forward. Matt rolls up on one of the biggest cases of his career; there had been a serial killer in the area and he struck in Matt’s hometown of Zion, brutally taking the lives of two young girls. While still on scene, a conversation was struck up and how seeing this affects the officers. A higher-ranking officer replied; “it’s not a big deal.” He learned quickly that day that showing emotion is not part of the job and the process of keeping everything bottled up began.
The Department was shorthanded, making days long and the stress-levels high. Everything begins to pile up inside. “I have always done things to the extreme,” said Matt. Jim Beam was always a social thing before, but as it turns out, when the streets you protect become heavy with hours worked, it becomes more than just social. Ultimately, the choices he made wrecked his first marriage.
You Can’t Live Life with the Morals You Have at Work
Between three to five years into his job, his marriage has failed and the stress, pain, and depression have finally caught up with him. Matt began seeking help, but suicidal thoughts began to occur often. Planning when, where, and how was at the top of his mind. After a girlfriend walked and found the gun on his chest, she turned him in. His counselor asked him why can’t you live life with the morals that you have while at work? Truthfully, he loved my sins more than the good.
The plan was made to take his life. Letters were written to those he loved and hated. He had instructions on what song to play and what he wanted to wear in the casket. While on shift on a cold winter night, Matt went to a Walmart parking lot and began crying and screaming “God if this is not what I am supposed to do show me a sign!” Ready to follow through with his plan, he looks up, and sees a woman walking toward his squad car with something red in her hand, wiping his eyes, wondering why in the heck is this woman coming this way right now in the blustery cold weather? Matt rolls down his window and asks how he can help. Handing him a small, object, she looks at him and says “You need this” then walks away. Looking down at the object was a small red cross. At that moment, he knew this was his sign.
The Badge Was Killing Me
The badge was killing me, and because of that, I used it for evil. Now understanding what it was doing to him, he uses it for good by giving back to the community and helping street kids through his non-profit, My Father’s Business. Matt began writing a book alongside one of his mentees that tragically died by suicide in 2020. His letters can be found in the forward of their book, Cop in Crisis to Cop in Christ. All proceeds go back to My Father’s Business.
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