For Montclair Local

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear pretty pink dresses.

That’s what 4-year-old Mackenzie Welch had on when Montclair police showed up at her home in July with a Paw Patrol stuffed animal, Montclair Police Department T-shirts for the young girl and her family and a certificate proclaiming her a superhero.

Weeks earlier, Mackenzie kept her cool in a fraught situation. Her 2-year-old brother was choking, Mackenzie’s mother, Lindsay Welch, said.

“When I called 911, I had to walk into the other room, and the phone was on speaker, so she picked up the phone and carried it while I was talking to the 911 operator,” she said.

When police arrived, Mackenzie’s mother had to stay with her brother; their father was away on a work trip. It was Mackenzie who showed police in. And it was Mackenzie who comforted her mother during the ordeal. 

“She kinda just jumped into superhero mode,” Lindsay Welch said. “I don’t think she really understood what was happening, but she knew it was scary and was on top of everything.”

The responding officer at the scene that day, Jillian Sofield, said Mackenzie went “above and beyond” in a stressful situation.

“She looked at her mother and told her everything was going to be OK, and gave her a hug,” Sofield said. “I can’t believe this little girl had the thought process to say something so innocent and not know the effect it really had.”

And, ultimately, Mackenzie was right — her brother made it through the incident, with the emergency help. Lindsay Welch said Sofield reached out to the family to follow up and arrange the reunion. She called the officer an “amazing support system.”

Montclair police shared a video of the reunion on their Facebook page on July 14 — part of what officers say is an ongoing effort to highlight and build on connections with the community. They say their participation in National Night Out — when police and other first responders spend time with families, show off their equipment and share safety information — plays an important role in that effort as well. This year’s event was held Tuesday, Aug. 3, on South Park Street.

Montclair Deputy Chief Wilhelm Young said when officers feel a child has shown “bravery, heroism or an extreme act of kindness,” the child should be recognized, and  the MPD tries to make that happen as much as possible.

“Society believes that all we do is lock people up, and give tickets,” Lt. Tyrone Williams Jr. said. “What we really do is protect and serve, and when we serve it’s in an abundance of ways.”

The MPD’s Facebook page highlights several other recent community interactions. On July 12 there were images of Williams and Detective Pierre Falaise removing graffiti from Boy Scout Troop 13’s trailer. Two days before that there were images of officer Vidal Rojas rescuing a turtle in the middle of Valley Road and bringing it safely back to a pond. And the day before that, there was Sgt. Charles Cunningham gifting a young Montclair girl with his police trading card. She wrote in chalk on the sidewalk: “Thank you police.”

Williams recalls a couple of years back when an elderly resident with no heat called the MPD. “Everyone else had no real answers for her,” he said. “But when she called us, we were able to make sure that this elderly person wasn’t sitting there in this cold house without any heat.”

MPD did so by speaking with a local oil company, getting her some oil and contacting a local heating repairman to fix her boiler.

“We want our residents to know that we are here for them when needed and beyond,” Young said. “Often, that goes beyond answering the 911 call.”