Bridgeport police officers arrived at work Tuesday to find their phones rubberbanded together and photo frames flipped upside down.
“Something Sgt. Randy White would do,” said Assistant Chief Steve Stanford.
The pranks, courtesy of the slain officer’s widow, Janet, and daughter, Jadyn, were a fitting tribute to the jokester on the fourth anniversary of his death.
“We always come up here and go have lunch with the guys on April 2, every year,” Janet said. “The whole theme of that day is just have fun and laugh. This year I told her, ‘You know what? In memory of Daddy, we ought to pull some pranks.’ So we did.”
More than just putting up with the mischief, officers embraced it – just as they’ve embraced Janet and Jadyn following the 2009 tragedy.
“We’re still close,” Janet said. “They let me in anytime I want to come in. They were Randy’s police family. They’re the other ones who saw him daily, and they still have to go do the job every day that he got killed doing.”
To honor them and her husband’s memory, on Tuesday Janet presented the department a print of a pastel painting of items that represent Randy and his colleagues.
Based on a military-themed piece, Janet’s creation – which she worked on two-and-a-half hours a week for 18 months at Singleton Art Studio in Bridgeport – includes a police badge, the fallen sergeant’s name badge and handcuffs on a flag backdrop.
But her favorite element is a pair of detailed boots.
“Randy wore a size 13 shoe, so the challenge in this particular painting was not letting those boots dominate,” Janet said. “But they represent the working part of the job and how hard they have to work. Randy gave it his all, and these guys do, too. Bridgeport has a wonderful department.”
Beyond its professionalism, Janet praised the family nature of the unit her husband was a part of for five years.
“It’s the people,” she said. “It’s the quality of the people who work for this department – their mentality. They’re in the job not for a power trip; they’re in it because they care. They want to help people.”
In the years following her husband’s death, she’s learned that firsthand.
“We kind of clung to each other after he was killed, and it means a lot just to keep in contact and be able to go in any of their offices and see the pictures they have up – it’s really cool,” Janet said. “I go through times that I think, ‘I’m just a bad reminder. They probably don’t want to see me.’ But that’s not true.
“They always are very welcoming. They want me around, and they get aggravated when I don’t bring Jadyn around enough. They’re very involved and care to know what’s going on with us. They’re good to us.”
Chief Randy Singleton said having them around has aided in their healing as well.
“It’s very important to us,” he said. “There’s no way we could just abandon the family. I could not bear the thought of them ever feeling like they aren’t a part of the place where Randy gave his all.”
They even reassigned Sgt. White’s 804 ID number to Janet. Third-grader Jadyn, who was in pre-K when she lost her dad, has gained an army of father figures.
“Jadyn and her dad roughhoused – that was their thing,” Janet said. “She still loves to wrestle, and she loves getting around the other officers because they let her hang on them and beat them up.
“She’s getting too big. I can’t handle it. She’s mean,” Janet added with a laugh. “He taught her police moves.”
Self-defense isn’t the only trait Jadyn acquired from her dad, Janet said.
“Her personality – she’s got a spunk about her that is very much like him, that I have explained to her is going to get her in trouble if she doesn’t keep her mouth shut,” Janet said. “She’s not going to back down from saying what she thinks. She’s not timid. She appears to be, but she’s not. She’s very witty, like him. They both kept me laughing.
“She is definitely her daddy’s child. ”
The year before he died, Janet said her husband considered leaving police work after a dream in which he died.
“During the time he was thinking of getting out of it, he was depressed,” she said. “Once he decided to stay in it, he came back to Randy. You just knew that’s what he was made to be. God made him to be a cop.”
“Randy lost his life doing what he did best,” he said. “Evil lurks in the hearts of people, and there are some people out there that just because you’re a police officer, they will kill you or attempt to kill you. It makes you a target. But we know our duty. Randy knew his duty. It is our job to stand between those people and everyone else.
“We want to be the barrier, even if it costs us our life.”
Instead of viewing her husband’s dream as a warning he ignored, Janet feels it was preparation for the inevitable – and has made her stronger.
“I feel like God prepared us for him getting killed,” she said. “He over time had told me he was going to die early. He just felt like he was. I even knew how he wanted his funeral. It was weird things like that, that I didn’t realize he was doing … Anytime he would talk about it I would get mad at him. But after the fact, I know that it was preparing me for it.”
Janet admits she wasn’t always thrilled about his job.
“When he first told me he wanted to be a police officer – and we were already married – I was not happy. I didn’t want to be a police officer’s wife,” she said. “When he said he had been praying about it, I was like ‘Aww crud.’ Once those words are thrown out, you can’t say no.
“I remember just praying about it. And I remember feeling like, God’s going to take care of him, and if anything happens to him, God is going to take care of me.
“And that’s exactly what’s happened. I’m glad he didn’t get out, even though it ended the way it ended. At least he was doing what he loved.”
And Janet is grateful for the officers who have stood behind her and her daughter.
“I came the week after his funeral and cleaned out his office. After that, I was up here all of the time. They couldn’t get rid of me,” she said. “I felt like we were all hurting together. We were able to still joke and laugh about the silly things he did. We didn’t get together and cry. We’d get together and laugh.”
The department was also strengthened in the process.
“This has made us better,” Chief Singleton said. “It has brought us closer. We appreciate each other more.”
But that wasn’t the only gift in the wake of this tragedy.
“We lost Randy, but we gained Janet and Jadyn,” he said.
He turns to her and commands, “804, I’m going to need you to log in some more time.”
Janet laughs and assures him, “You can’t get rid of me, even if you wanted to.”