NewsInspiring South Florida


Autism awareness helping to keep fallen officer's memory alive in Fort Pierce

Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 18:27:02-04

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Have a look at Fort Pierce Police Officer Damian Spotts’ personal workshop. There's rows upon rows of model cars and for Spotts, each one is symbolic of his lifelong passion.

“For me, my personal collection of models I’ve built for not just police cars but everything else - that’s in the thousands,” said Spotts.

Part of that output includes special requests for replica Fort Pierce police squad cars.

“I have all the cars I’ve driven except one,” he said.

As a community outreach officer, Spotts works with the likes of School Resource Officer Jorge Goz on several initiatives close to the Fort Pierce Police Department.

“I work at a school so the first thing I’m asked is, 'do you arrest people?' We have to move on from that mentality that that’s all we do. A bigger part of what we do is be part of the community,” said Goz.

They participate in the community through events like the Special Olympics. That’s how Goz and Spotts both got to better know officer James Cozine.

“He passed away after battling cancer. During his time here he was very involved with Special Olympics as a matter of fact he was one of the first officers I met when I thought of being a cop,” said Spotts of Cozine.

Tip a Cop, Torch runs, and the Special Olympics became the rewarding part of the job, introducing them to people like Special Olympian Annabelle Currie.

“She’s a high functioning autistic individual. She’s very close to officer James Cozine when he was with us and I thought who better to give that to in memory of officer James Cozine,” explained Potts.

The gift? Only something the likes of Spotts can pull off… an autism awareness replica of a Fort Pierce police squad car.

To us, it’s a car but to Annabelle and her mom Sherri Olin, it’s reassurance.

“Just know that they’re here in case she’s having a bad day I can call in and ask for one of them… they know her and they might be able just to come over and talk to her for a few minutes and she can calm down,” said Olin.

Proving with each ounce of patience and understanding, autism awareness is still alive and well in Fort Pierce.

Officer Cozine, survived by a son on the spectrum, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“What Cozine implemented in me was we can help no matter what,” said Goz.

They're spreading awareness and putting the unity in community.