Alpharetta officers praised for compassionate handling of child in crisis on busy roadway

The Alpharetta police are commending some of their fellow officers for taking a more compassionate response to a dangerous situation in April that likely saved a young boy's life. 

Sgt. Mark Tappan with the Alpharetta Police Department says he got a call about a child with a developmental disability in crisis who had run away from an Extended Stay hotel on Rock Mill Road. 

Tappan says the boy then walked down the middle of North Point Parkway.   

"[He was a] sweet kid, but he was walking out into traffic. So, it presented a little bit of a safety issue. His mom was driving next to him in the car, trying to entice him to get into the car. He was refusing and would step in front of cars," Tappan said. The officer knew he had to act quickly but tried to use as little force as possible. 

"I knew that there was a mental health crisis that was going on at the time, but at the same time I had to protect him and other motorists. So that's where I grabbed him by the wrist and I said, ‘Hey, buddy, we got to talk to you’....and he would take my hand off and I'd just grab with the other hand and say 'I can't let go, buddy. I can't let go.' And I did that over and over," Tappan said.  

Finally, Tappan was able to guide the 11-year-old from the busy road to the North Point Mall parking lot. 

There he and two other officers, Officers Bice and Frank, sat down with him and just talked to him. 

"We talked about everything from video games to movies, and it was really one of the best days at work that I've ever had," Tappan said.  

He says they didn’t want to rush the situation.  

"The approach that we take in Alpharetta and as a supervisor, I've always said to my guys, in any call that I go on, to me this is the most important thing that's going on in the world right now and that's why I'm here. And so that's the approach that you take. You try to have the best possible outcome for the situation that you're in at the time," Tappan said.  

That approach enabled them to take the time to figure out why he was so distressed. 

"It started off where a teacher said something to him that he took in a certain way, that he was a failure," Tappan said.  

(Alpharetta Police Department)

Officer David Febles says that was the right approach. 

"He's already highly agitated. And so, when you use that type of force, it's just going to make the situation worse," Febles said.  

Febles is a licensed therapist and part-time officer with Alpharetta's My Watch team, a paramedicine and mental health unit. 

"This is actually more effective than chasing this kid down, putting him in handcuffs, because what's going to happen is he's most likely going to go home with mom and then end up running away again anyways," Febles said.  

FOX 5 asked Tappan why he chose the approach he did instead of more force. 

"I kind of learned on the job as a dad of three different kids that a lot of times just kindness and listening is much more effective than trying to make someone do it your way," Tappan said.  

Tappan says that the boy's mother was doing what she could and was in no way at fault here. 

The family is in a tough situation with the mom raising the boy and his siblings on her own and staying at an Extended Stay hotel.  

Febles says all Alpharetta PD officers get Crisis Intervention Training, which uses a lot of the skills these officers used in this instance.