Behind the Badge -- Officer Denison Dawson

Officer Dennison Dawson


My name is Denison Dawson. I have worked at the City of Tempe Police Department for 18 years. During my tenure, I have served in various assignments including as a patrol officer, field training officer, hostage negotiator, solo motor officer within the traffic bureau, school resource officer, and a juvenile detective. I never thought I would become a police officer. I come from a very dysfunctional background and grew up in the inner city of South Phoenix in a bad neighborhood.

How I became an Officer

A friend of mine decided she wanted to become an officer and at the time I was a personal trainer, so I trained her. Once she got into shape, she tested and was hired by the Phoenix Police Department. She saw something in me and suggested I should become an officer as well. As I started to pass the various stages of the testing process, I had a decision to make about my future. I said a prayer to God asking if this was something I should move forward with. The answer I heard that day was, “Yes.”

I finished the process to become a police officer and now I can say 18 years later I am exactly where I am supposed to be! So many amazing and incredible things have happened throughout my career. As a police officer and because of the background I come from, I’ve been able to help others in ways most can’t. I really make a positive difference in the lives of those I meet!

About Me

My parents were only 16 and still in high school when they had me. Since they had me so young, I was nearly aborted but the decision was made to have me. My father did most of the raising, along with my great grandmother. My mother had three more children all by different fathers. She later got involved with crack cocaine and was not around for most of my life. I ended up spending most of my childhood chasing a relationship with her. My father was young and extremely abusive.

As a child I got involved in sports and became a great football player since I had a lot of pent up anger from my upbringing and abuse. Football was a great way to let the anger out in a productive manner. I eventually earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Nevada, Reno, where I graduated with an English degree and minored in sociology.

I am a highly motivated individual with a compassionate heart. I truly love and care for others in a way that moves me emotionally at times. There have been times I have cried with others while on a call and prayed with them as well. Along with my heart for people I am an extremely positive person! I am always smiling, laughing, and I love hugging people. Hugging is a great way to relieve stress and to transfer positive energy to one another. I am compassionate yet very purposeful!

I enjoy spending time with my beautiful family! I have a beautiful wife, four-year-old son, and another son on the way due in October. With everything going on in the world and around our country, my family has really been a great healing source for me. I am a man of faith, so I enjoy attending service on Sundays, getting involved in the community when I’m off duty, hanging out with close friends, and finding ways to give to others. I am currently writing a book about my life and journey. It will be titled “Front Seat of the Car”. I will be walking the reader through how I became the driver; driving the vehicle of my life and not in the back seat heading to jail based on the background I came from.

I also enjoy working out and bowling! I have a mean hook and spin on the bowling ball as it heads towards the lead pin. The one thing I would want someone to know about me is how much I love others. I think most who know me or get to know me will instantly pick up on this. I am always willing to help who I can when I can!

What Motivates Me

For me, my motivation in life is seeing how I can impact someone’s life in a positive manner. That look in their eye, that smile on their face, the calming demeanor of their body language as you have completely lifted the burden off their shoulders and helped them to see they are not alone. My wife and children are also a motivator for me. I want to make them happy and make them feel extremely loved daily! Success, achievement and progress drive me. These I want to apply in all areas of my life!

I look up to our Father in Heaven; because without Him I would not be where I’m at in life, understand what I do in life, feel the way I feel about life, love the way I love, and understand the things I understand.

My family and friends look up to me for the person I am and whom I am becoming. Once people get to know me, hear what I’ve gone through, and see where I am, most are very impressed with the progress I’ve made in life and the person I’ve become despite all odds.

If I chose another career other than law enforcement, it would be that of a motivational speaker. Someone who can speak life into an individual’s soul. I genuinely love helping people and seeing them grow. I have come to realize we are not that different from one another. We experience some of the same things, are connected more emotionally than we realize, and we are not going through life alone.

No greater thing can one do than to serve another. The path that I took I believe was meant for me! Knowing what I know now after all the experiences of an 18 year career I would not have done anything different!


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