Me: Tell us about yourself.
Major Nick Elias (Commander, Oklahoma City Police Department, Southwest Division): I was born in Phoenix Arizona. I have lived in Oklahoma City since I was 3 years old. I’ve worked since that age. My parents owned Eddy’s Steak House, so I grew up working in the restaurant business. I use to stand on a wooden pallet to clean dishes since I wasn’t able to reach the counter. Most of my weekends and holidays were spent working with my family. I can cook for a multitude of people, prepare and organize large events. My dad personally taught me these skills.
I’ve been with the Oklahoma City Police Department now for 30 years. My wife and I have been together for 12 years. My son is 21, my stepson is 20 and my stepdaughter is 25. I enjoy spending time with family, volunteering/ training our future leaders through Scouting, working out and getting things accomplished around the house.
Me: What’s something you’re not really good at?
Maj Elias: I would definitely say making time for fun and taking a break from work. I’m great at working and staying busy all the time. I rarely, if ever, take time for family or friends. I’m horrible to take on a trip. I’m most comfortable when I’m accomplishing a goal, not relaxing.
Me: Misspent youth kind of story?
Maj Elias: I would say my vice during my youth was with cars and speeding. I loved to drive fast. I’ve had a lot of speeding tickets. I think I was on probation until I graduated college. I would go to court every six months and be placed on probation so the ticket wouldn’t go on my record. I still remember driving south bound on I-35 to Norman, OK and being impatient with two drivers going the speed limit and taking up both lanes of travel. I drove around them on the right shoulder of the road. I failed to look directly behind me to see the OHP Trooper. Yep, I earned another one. I received a careless driving ticket, but at least I didn’t go to jail. When I decided to join OCPD, the one thing I felt was going to keep me from being hired was my driving record. I don’t drive fast anymore, mainly because I know my own mortality and I’m not in a hurry to get to my grave.
Me: Being a police officer seems like a pretty dangerous job.
Maj Elias: Having a career in law enforcement can be very dangerous. Officers go to heated or violent situations every day. The reason they are so successful most of the time is because of the numerous hours spent training. It’s normal for people to think they will live forever. If we worried about dying, no one would ever leave their home. I’ve always looked forward to going to work and getting involved in something exciting. In the past, when I’ve been involved in fighting a subject who had a weapon or responding to an armed robbery in progress, I’d focus on the successful outcome of that one incident. Most police officers have a warrior mindset. They’re not joining because it’s safe, they’re joining because they want to make a positive difference for their family as well as others in their community.
Me: Do you think about the dangerous aspects of the job while on the job?
Maj Elias: I absolutely think about the risks during the entire shift. You have to be thinking about what actions you might need to take when going to a call for service in order to have a successful outcome for everyone involved. Police work is more mental than it is physical. To be truthful, one of the most difficult jobs on the department is being a dispatcher. They handle stressful situations when people call in, assign it to one of the officers who may also be a friend and never know the outcome of the situation. Not having a resolution to a critical incident is very stressful.
Me: Stress management is pretty important to having a successful career. How do you deal with the stressful aspects of being a cop?
Maj Elias: It’s great to go home at the end of a shift. I normally see how my family’s day went and relax for a couple of hours to get my mind off of work. It’s not really different than anyone else with a career. It’s only different when officers don’t come home on time or don’t come home at all. Then it affects all of the officers and their families.
I like to talk about things that bother me. I talk to family, friends, and other officers. We have a fantastic support system set up at the police department. Our Chaplin Charlie Phillips is a police officer who has worked the front line for many years and understands the stress of being a police officer. He is trained to deal with a wide range of issues affecting officers. We also have an Employees Assistance Program and the Chapps Program (Cops Helping Alleviate Police Problems) and the Chaplin Corps. I’ve grown up in a Christian family, I’ve also been taught to respect the beliefs of others. I have seen God working in the lives of those I serve as well as my own. It would be difficult to do this job and not believe in something greater than yourself.
I have a great support system at home, my neighborhood and in the community. I may be a little biased, but my experience with people from Oklahoma has been very positive and supportive. We have many great citizens who contribute to the success of our City. I have worked with many City officials and police officers over my 30 year career. I can say without hesitation-we have the best police officers I’ve ever seen. This does not happen without leadership from the top. Chief Citty has been an excellent example of making positive and proactive changes over the last 14 years as Chief. He genuinely cares about all of his officers and works on giving them the tools they need to do the job more effectively.
Me: How has being a police officer influenced who you are?
Maj Elias: Being a police officer is an honorable profession, but it comes with a price. It means you will hold yourself to a higher standard than others in the community. You will be held to a higher standard of accountability if you break the law. You will be scrutinized for everything you do because you hold others accountable for their actions. Without a doubt police officers are trained to look for those who break the law, those who choose to rob, rape, steal, assault or even get a traffic ticket. The hardest thing for officers to see is the positive influence they have on others as a result of their decision to become a police officer. My personal views have been shaped by my personal experiences with people and they seem to change the older I get. The bottom line for me is I chose to believe in people otherwise I wouldn’t do this job.
I’m not as good at being a husband as I am a police officer. Like many officers’ spouses, my wife didn’t choose to be a police officer, but she gets to be one anyway. She gets to hear the complaints and deal with the stuff I deal with on a daily basis. I put her “on hold” when I receive a call from work so I can deal with issues that arise. It’s not uncommon in police work, but it takes a toll on a relationship. My wife is a Saint!
As a father, I had more time to spend with my son when he was younger. I made time to be with him and be involved in his life. I will take his call even if I’m in a meeting. It might be short, but I’ll take his call. My stepson and stepdaughter are very independent and responsible young adults. They really don’t need my guidance, but I’m available if they need me. They rely more on their mom than they do me, which is probably a good thing.
Me: Tell us about your involvement with the Boy Scouts.
Maj Elias: My first wife’s dad was an Eagle Scout, her brother was an Eagle Scout and my son was going to be an Eagle Scout. It’s a family tradition. I got involved when my son crossed over from cub scouts into boy scouts. I was going to troop meetings for my son’s sake, not because I enjoyed it. I quickly found out Scouting was about building future leaders in the community and nation by teaching them ethics and morals through the scout oath and law. They learned about citizenship, finance, fitness, first-aid, science, backpacking, family life, law, you name it and we might have a merit badge for it.
I quickly realized the value scouting had not only for my son, but for other kids whose parents were not involved. I later became a merit badge counselor and Troop Committee Chair. There, I found other adults whose values, mission and vision were the same as mine and they weren’t cops. It was a diverse group of men and women coming together for a common purpose-developing future leaders and being able to leave a legacy for future generations. My son earned his Eagle Scout Award in 2010 and stayed in Scouts until he went to college. I felt then I was done with Scouting when my son left the troop.
Being in the Scouts has given me a positive outlook on our future generations. I don’t normally get that interaction being a police officer. It’s important for me to be proactive and doing something positive for our future, not just whining about it. Also, I have a great relationship with my son, but going camping in Philmont, New Mexico during the winter or sweating through summer camp at Kerr Scout Ranch at Slippery Falls seemed to make it unforgettable. I will never regret doing things with my son and I have memories that will last a lifetime. I hope other parents will do the same.
I later realized Scouting has more layers than an onion. I received a call from the District Executive asking if I would be on the District Committee. No longer would I be going to a weekly meeting for just 1 hour a week. I would only be going to a meeting 1 hour a month. Sure, sounded like a good exit plan to me. Well, I’ve been on the District Committee for 4 years and serve as the Vice-Chair. I’m still having fun, but it’s with the adults who run the program for the pack, troop and or crew. I’ve also continued to serve on staff for Wood Badge.
Wood Badge is the BSA’s premier leadership training course for adults. You have to be at least 18 years old to attend this training. The first Wood Badge course was held in 1919 by Sir Baden Powell on Brownsea Island. Although the program has evolved, the Wood Badge program is still being held, only it’s world-wide. There are two phases to the leadership training. First is the practical phase where participants attend a 6-day course over two weekends. The second part is the application phase. This is where the participants put what they’ve learned into action. They work to accomplish 5 goals within a 6 to 18 month period. The reason this program is so valuable is because it trains the adults to become better leaders for our kids, in their careers, as well as the communities they serve. If anyone is interested, here’s the link for more information http://lfcwoodbadge.org/WB2128/