You might remember Deputy Addy Perez of the Richland County (South Carolina) Sherriff’s Department from an incident on Live PD where she had to hold onto a suspect’s legs as he attempted to flee over a fence while being questioned. Or perhaps you remember her heartwarming conversation with a homeless veteran about her own experience in the military. (She’s still serving in the Army.)
Perez, a fan favorite on the show, became part of Richland County in 2016 after coming off active duty as a Drill Sergeant.
Perez spoke with A&E True Crime about how being in the military and in law enforcement are similar, how social media has impacted policing and the importance of police transparency.
What made you want to become a police officer after being in the military?
It was an easy transition from the military into law enforcement. They have similarities on the structure and the environment and some things you’re built to do.
I come from a family of law-enforcement and military folks—I have a lot of friends, a lot of cousins and uncles and aunts with the NYPD—so it was an easier transition for me to go into it. I was more familiar with the environment as well.
You were born and raised in the Bronx. Did you go into the military after being in New York, or had you moved there before you went into the military?
I was born and raised [there] and I didn’t move to South Carolina until about 2014 when I was hired to be a Drill Sergeant Leader at the United States Army Drill Sergeant Academy.
Why work for Richland County? Was there a reason you went back to that area instead of going into the New York Police Department?
I did apply to NYPD while I was still in New York and I didn’t even have the mind of coming back to South Carolina at the time. But the hiring process for the NYPD takes a very long time. It took about two to three years before they even hit me up with a letter stating I was going through the paperwork process. By the time they actually sent me the form that [said] they were considering me—It wasn’t even a ‘You were hired’; it was just to start the paperwork process—I was already in South Carolina and part of Richland County.
They were too late. It was taking forever. I don’t know why it was taking forever, but I guess their [application] count is very high compared to us. By that time, I made a decision that I wasn’t even going to move back to New York because I had made South Carolina my permanent home. Once I did the military thing, I heard good reviews of Richland County and how they’re involved with the community, which sparked my interest with their special teams [program].
How did being in the military ease the transition to law enforcement?
[In Richland County] the leadership structure, their tactics with weapons and how they function is very similar to the military. I think that’s why it’s such an easier transition for military folks to come out of the active-duty status and go into law enforcement.
That’s why myself and a lot of others are transitioning into law enforcement. We can still function properly within a structured, disciplined, leadership ladder just like the military. Our experiences while we were deployed overseas can work within law enforcement as well.
You became familiar to a lot of our viewers when you held onto a suspect who was trying to escape over a fence. What did it feel like in that moment?
I really wasn’t scared. If you look at the video, you’ll see…there’s a slight pause where I’m just staring at him run.
I’d never had anybody run from me. I’m the youngest officer with Richland County. That was my first time having somebody run, where I had to interact and engage and capture the suspect.
I was focused on catching the suspect, ensuring that [my partner] Corporal Laureano was safe, I was safe and nobody else [got] hurt. I paid attention to communicating with Corporal Laureano and ensuring that we all had everything under control so that we can make the apprehension.
Have you had any other major incidents on the job where adrenaline kind of went into overdrive—either filmed for Live PD or not?
One thing about the military, they’re very good at teaching you how to control your adrenaline and ensuring you don’t go into overdrive or go into a panic and stuff like that.
Two days ago, we did a ‘knock and talk’ on a resident for illegal drug activity. We had the camera crew with us, so it [might be on] one of the [pre-recorded segments of the live show]. The call was that there was illegal activity going on and individuals [around] who don’t belong at the residence. The property manager wanted me to find out what was going on…to have a one-on-one talk [with the resident]. I knocked a couple times and I hear noises; they were talking among themselves inside. They refused to open the door.
Two other individuals had walked out and left the door unlocked. But I didn’t know that until I pushed the door to see if the door was locked or unlocked. Once I opened the door—I had the whole Community Action Team with me as well because we come as a group, just in case—the [individuals] failed to come out of the residence. They were hiding towards the back of the hallway in a room. I saw shadows and a lot of talking. They were dumping narcotics into the toilet or trying to get rid of them so that [the drugs] wouldn’t be present when we were searching.
My military side kicked in and training with Richland County. They taught me to be prepared for the worst, and that’s what I was expecting.
That’s probably where I was most alert and prepared to take pretty much anything that came at me. I was willing to engage, if necessary, ensuring the rest of my team was safe. [The suspects were arrested without incident.]
What do you think is the most important quality to have as a police officer?
Patience and understanding. I can’t speak for all law-enforcement officers, I can only speak for myself. But being in this environment and my experience in the past. being a New Yorker, being a veteran, now being now law enforcement, I’ve noticed that we don’t listen enough. We tend to jump to conclusions without understanding the situation first.
Do you think patience is especially important on the Community Action Team? Does it help with police-community relations?
We do because we rely on the public to assist us. You want to build that trust with them…and let them know we are available when they need us. Nobody wants to live in a bad community, nobody wants to be scared to step out of their home; they don’t know if they’re going to get shot because of the illegal activity going on down the street.
Have you faced any challenges being a woman in male-dominated fields like law enforcement and the military?
You meet the standard that’s been placed…you exceed the standards so that you prove your worth. Because I’ve always applied myself and ensured that I meet the standards that have been presented to me, my coworkers or anybody—military-wise and law enforcement-wise—realize I can hold my own… Because at the end of the day, we’re all doing the same job. At the end of the day you’re either a veteran or not, not male or female. To me you’re a soldier or not a soldier, you’re in law enforcement or you’re not law enforcement. Your gender should not be an issue.
What do you love most about being a police officer?
I love the community interaction. One of the reasons I [wanted to be part of] law enforcement is because I wanted to change the image of law enforcement now.
[We’re] going through a struggle where nobody trusts us anymore because of all the bad reviews and all these vigils on social media; it’s taken a toll on us. I wanted to…[help get] the community to trust us again. And just seeing the change [in the community’s perception on law enforcement]…helps a lot. That’s what I like most—seeing the change. [Now] they want to give us a hug, they want to shake our hand, they want to tell us what’s going on.
What was the biggest misconception within your community about the police department, before they got to know the officers?
They’re judging all law enforcement based off what they think happened, or what they believe on social media. That’s what everybody believes first. Nobody wants to do the research and find out what really happened.
But being on the show and the show in general and [doing] other events and committees, has helped [law enforcement] be able to connect and open up everybody’s minds to what [law enforcement] really is, and what’s true and what’s not true.
By ‘social media’ do you mean when cops are caught on camera doing bad things?
Yeah. We don’t get the full story [on social media]. That’s unfortunate because everybody’s entitled to the full story so they can make up their own opinion about it instead of manipulating the social media aspect of it and changing things so you can only believe one thing and one thing only.
We try our best here to ensure we become as transparent as possible so that we don’t have those issues.
What’s a memorable moment you’ve had at work?
I haven’t even made a year yet, but all of my highlights have happened live! Everything that’s been big has been on the show, especially with the homeless situation. (In a December 2017 episode, Perez shared her story of being in the military with a homeless veteran.) That was probably my most emotional and most memorable moment. I was unable to function after that was shot.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not at work?
I’m pretty simple honestly. I don’t do too much. I like hiking with the dogs. I [also] have ferrets and fish. I like road trips. I like driving around and seeing scenery. I like watching movies.
Is there anything that your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
I like reading teen-fantasy fiction books. I know, it’s weird. I’m a little bit embarrassed about it. I carry my book around…and when people see it and realize I’m reading a teen-action fiction book, they look at me weird, like ‘Why are you reading this? You’re a grown woman.’ But at the same time, it’s something that keeps me away from reality and gives my mind a break.
I love watching cartoons—I don’t spend my time watching reality shows.
What teen fiction are you reading?
It’s called ‘The Assassins’ series. There’s a female hero character. She’s trying to hold her own. She’s like a female superhero. She’s an assassin. The [book series] before that was ‘Cinder.’ It was based off the Cinderella characters in a…sci-fi world.