- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Any officer will tell you going into law enforcement isn’t a decision, it’s a calling.

It was for Rasby Mason III, who answered the call nearly six years ago when he joined Shreveport Police Department. But unlike most of his fellow officers, this wasn’t the first time Mason would answer a call to serve - by the time he was a rookie officer for SPD, he’d already been a Christian minister for a decade.

For Mason, helping people is his life purpose.

“My greatest goal is to see others be successful,” he said.

And while he’s known this to be his mission for a long time, what the 32-year-old is still learning every day is the capacity in which his help can be given.

Mason was 15 years old when he began ministering for his youth group at C.E. Byrd High School. Just five years earlier, he’d watched his father, Rasby Mason II, answer the same call and start his own church, Temple of Deliverance, in the Cedar Grove neighborhood.

In 2012, the church was renamed to Impact Church, and the following year, Mason III established the first extension of his father’s ministry with Impact Church North, located near the intersection of Youree Drive and Kings Highway. The new church was aimed to reach a younger generation, with a leader who was in tune to the issues they face.

“The fact that he would pastor an extension church of the mother church I founded really, really made me feel good,” Mason II said. “That he saw something in me that made him want to be part of that legacy meant something I did was imparted that positively affected him.”

Unlike his father, however, Mason had reached further, finding alternative means to help others who couldn’t be reached through the traditional means of the church.

Mason joined the Army Reserves after high school, where he became a drill instructor, and was given the opportunity to mentor children and teenagers planning to join the military.

Cpl. Jason Cook was in Mason’s Reserve unit before the two worked together at a federal prison in Keithville. Mason and Cook formed a close friendship while working together, so when Cook left the prison to join SPD, he begged his friend to join him.

“We call each other ‘battle buddies’ It’s a military term,” Cook said. “It’s the one person you can truly trust with your life. Most people never even get that.”

In 2011, Mason joined his friend at SPD, and serves today as a community liaison officer in west Shreveport’s District 9. Cook works in the same unit in District 4.

“My call to the ministry prepared me for law enforcement,” Mason said. “Not only am I able to talk to people and motivate them, but I’m actually able to help them through the ministry. With law enforcement, I’m able to facilitate that ability, cause that’s what law enforcement is.”

As part of the Community Liaison Policing Unit, Mason’s primary duty is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.

As a CLO, I’m actually able to reach into the community, instead of just going call to call,” Mason said. “If someone has a complaint, I have to sit with them and see what their concerns are and what we can do to solve that problem.”

His job also requires some mentoring, particularly of troubled youth, which Mason says is the best part of the job.

One of the young people Mason works with witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of his father at 6 years old. Mason admitted he assumed the young man was the same as the other troubled youth he typically dealt with, and used the same tough-love approach he’d taken with others until he took the time to learn a little more about him.

“I’ve now made it my personal business to interact with him and be in his life,” Mason said. “I check in with him at his caretaker’s regularly, making sure he has that male figure to help him realize the importance of life and follow the law.”

He said his work in the ministry has better prepared him for his role in law enforcement, just as his work as an officer has improved his church.

Once a month, Mason hosts a class on relationships. He said being on the scene of domestic abuse calls and talking with the couples involved has been a tool in better understanding the hardships couples face.

Learning from these calls, he teaches the young people in his class the importance of carefully planning and selecting a partner, rather than rushing and ending up in a dangerous relationship.

“In the ministry, we get the chance to help a lot of people, and with policing, I get the chance to see a different side of the community, which allows me to minister on a different note,” Mason said. “I’m not just preaching from a Biblical point of view, I’m speaking practically as well, based off what I see when I’m on duty.”

His approach is working. Officer Joshua Dowell, a CLO in District 7, joined Impact Church one year ago. Today, he plays piano as part of the church’s music ministry.

“When we started working together we formed a bond that was unbelievable,” Dowell said. “I don’t know what it is, but God put us in each other’s lives for a reason. To bring together policing, the community and the church, it just works. It all coincides together.”

For Mason, it’s simply a way to work toward his goal of helping people. Each facet of his life, he said, helps him to fulfill his personal motto - “love the Hell out of people.”

“I believe ministry was the root of my calling,” Mason said. “I became a drill instructor and a police officer because of those roots, and because of it, when I see someone in need of help I’m prepared to put myself in danger and place my life on the line to make it happen.”

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Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com

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