Those Who Make a Difference: Eric Hawkins

[Waco Tribune-Herald] Those Who Make a Difference: Eric Hawkins

This is a monthly feature on someone who makes a difference in other people’s lives. To submit someone for consideration, email ken.sury@wacotrib.com.

About Eric

Waco Police Detective Eric Hawkins is a Waco guy even though his birth certificate reads Knobnoster, Missouri. The funny story behind that, the longtime law officer says, is that his parents were living in Milwaukee while his mother was pregnant with him. On a trip to visit his grandfather in Waco, his mother went into labor outside Kansas City, Missouri. The closest hospital was in the suburb of Knobnoster and that’s where he arrived. Eric has two younger brothers and a sister. His parents are Willietta White, who lives in Manor, and the late Bruce Hawkins. The family moved to Waco when he was in elementary school. Eric graduated from Jefferson Moore High. He lives in Bellmead with his son, Eric Hawkins Jr., a 14-year-old freshman at La Vega High who is in the Early College High School program and is active in sports like his father. Eric Sr., a quarterback at Jeff Moore, went to Tarleton State on a football scholarship, then Navarro Junior College and McLennan Community College. He spent five years at Fox 44 as a film director and control operator/supervisor before entering law enforcement in 1992. He worked eight years with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office and is in his 24th year at Waco PD.

Eric Hawkins says being part of Waco Police’s NET (Neighborhood Engagement Team) aligns perfectly with his belief that law enforcement needs to meet people where they are in life.

The 24-year Waco PD veteran was brought onto the team earlier this year; it’s an outreach program initiated by Police Chief Sheryl Victorian.

Part of that outreach has Hawkins meeting with students after school on Mondays at the East Waco Library where they play games, watch videos and interact.

“One of the key parts of neighborhood engagement, especially with some of the violent crimes that are happening today, is to connect with our young people.” he said. “The only way to connect with the young people is to enter into their world. … The language is different than the language that we used; the thought process is different. We have to meet them where they live to be able to gain that information and be able to relate to whatever is dealing on their minds.”

The program draws about 35-40 students, mostly from nearby Rapoport Academy.

“They’ve definitely figured out they can easily beat me at that (chuckles as he points to a chess board) … to sit there, win, lose or draw, just to be there and be present and before you know it they are talking to you about their education, their peer pressure, they’re talking to you about the bully that may be in school, what may be going on at home. They might start enlightening you about other life issues that are detrimental to their existence.

“It’s the small things that go a long way.”

Hawkins, who was a standout quarterback at Jefferson Moore High School, also meets with the men’s basketball and football teams at Baylor; it’s a part-time role he’s done the last 22 years.

“I was a highly recruited kid out of high school, but I took it for granted that it would always be there,” he said. “It’s not always going to be there.”

Hawkins has talked with the athletic departments at Waco, University and La Vega high schools.

“If I look at the stats of violent crimes that had taken place in the city of Waco, a good portion of those victims and suspects were student-athletes,” he said. “My goal for visiting those three athletic departments is to become involved with these kids so they know me, I know them, and we can try to curb that particular type of behavior.”

It’s about letting the kids know someone is there to support them, he added. “I’m going to be there, touch you on your shoulder and let you know they have someone there supporting you and hoping to direct you into doing the right thing.”

Beyond his work with the students, Hawkins and the NET unit take part in a monthly Faith in Blue community outreach at First Methodist Church. They also led a hugely successful Community Opportunity Event (COE) at 1020 Elm Ave. on June 19.

That brought together providers for mental and physical health, four branches of the military, human resources personnel, offered COVID shots, and had members of the Baylor basketball teams there.

Through that event, Brothers for Others, a food pantry, connected with Church of the Open Door to provide needed supplies for the church’s Wednesday family feeding program during the summer.

“This is what we do,” Hawkins said.

Those Who Make a Difference

Waco Today highlights people whose good works may otherwise go relatively unnoticed. To submit someone for consideration, email ksury@wacotrib.com.

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