TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - One of Topeka Police Officer William Lister's main duties is reaching out to victims of crime offering resources or help, but there's also a lighter side.
“Another thing I do is I hang out with the boys and girls at the Boys & Girls Club.” Lister said. “I go play pool with them, go play basketball, volleyball, and I mean that’s just so much fun, anything with kids is awesome."
Emari Doby, 13, regularly hangs out at the Boys & Girls Club and thinks Lister raises the level of fun for all the kids.
“He's really nice. We had a basketball game and he was the captain, he was so tall it was like he was this close from dunking!" Emari exclaimed.
This chapter is a bit of a comeback in the Stull, Kansas native's story. Out of college, he joined the Navy to get the experience to become a police officer. August 16, 2007 tragedy struck during a training exercise.
"We're on a gravel road, and the driver lost control, so I am the gunner on top standing inside the hummer, and can't get in or out and it rolled over on top if me.” Lister said. "I had a skull fracture with mild brain bleeding, both my eye sockets broke, my nose broke, my jaw broke, my arm broke, it tore my tricep, my bone also tore my main artery."
His body couldn't absorb nutrients following the accident - and his weight dropped from 180 to 137 pounds.
"It was super bad,” Lister explained. “When the doctors saw me they thought I was either a cancer patient or an aids patient because of how skinny I was."
It wasn't until two of his pastors came to visit that his fate seemed to turn.
"I started getting better after that." Lister said. "I started healing, started gaining weight."
From there he joined the San Diego Police Department, eventually moving home to Kansas to work for TPD.
“I think the biggest take from it is I value life a lot differently, it’s so precious,” Lister said. ”It's like every day I thank God like thank you for just this breath. I shouldn't be here but I am here, and you gave me a second chance, and I'm really appreciative of that and I have my daughter now."
Without that second chance we wouldn't have kids like Emari benefiting from having a positive and enjoyable relationship with local law enforcement.
"He's fun, and you should want to hang around him, and not have one opinion about him and just try to get to know him as much as you can,” Emari said.
Lister believes officers need to foster meaningful relationships with the community, but you can't do that by just driving through and waving.
“I was talking to some of the kids and they're like what are you here for, I’m just coming here and talking to you, that’s all."
Officer Lister regularly works community events, and also helps coordinate the Police Athletic League which offers affordable sport programs for youth.