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Answering a Different Call

Former four-sport athlete now member of Detroit Police

When Abby McCollum appeared in the spring 2014 issue of Champion, she was answering the Detroit Mercy Titans’ call in her fourth sport at the school. Soccer was McCollum’s primary sport, but when the lacrosse team was low on numbers her sophomore year, she picked up a stick for the first time. As a senior, she filled in for the women’s basketball and softball teams before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and earning a master’s in intelligence analysis.

Now the La Salle, Michigan, native responds to a different kind of call for the Detroit Police Department. McCollum, now Abby Campbell, joined the force in April 2016, less than four months after being sworn in as a police officer.

On Feb. 4, 2017, the Detroit police were called when a man who seemed distressed was spotted standing near the safety barrier at the edge of an overpass. Campbell and her partner were dispatched, and their supervisor, Sgt. John Pasharikovski, made his way to the scene, too.

Pasharikovski says he had never encountered a potential suicide jumper in his 11 years in the field, and en route, he began to prepare himself mentally to help the man. But by the time he got there, Campbell already had found the right words.

“She was very calm and very empathetic to the guy and was just telling him what he needed to hear,” Pasharikovski recalls. “I decided at that point to stand back a few feet and let her handle the situation.”

As emergency vehicles from local and state agencies surrounded the area on the 20-degree Saturday morning and the Michigan State Police directed traffic on the freeway below, Campbell continued talking to the man.

“I knew I had to try and keep his attention,” Campbell says. “I let him know we cared about him and that I wasn’t going to let this happen. Him jumping was not going to be an option.”

After nearly 45 minutes, Campbell persuaded the man to step away safely from the overpass.

Sgt. David Branham, another supervisor in the department, says he can’t recall another time in his 46 years in which a probationary officer took initiative the way Campbell did.

“It’s extremely unusual for an officer straight out of the academy to get involved like she did,” Branham says. “She didn’t hesitate. I believe honestly that she saved the guy’s life.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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