York City officer carrying on Platts family tradition of public service
York County native son T.J. Platts has known since he was a kid that he wanted to continue his family's tradition of public service, and he said he wanted to do it in the place he loves.
"York is my home," he said. "I love being out in the city with people."
The 23-year-old is the York City Police Department's newest officer, having been sworn in Oct. 16 by Mayor Michael Helfrich while Platts family members looked on.
T.J. Platts is the son of Leslie Platts and York County Common Pleas Judge and former U.S. Rep. Todd Platts; the grandson of the late Barbara "Babs" Platts and the late Russell "Dutch" Platts; and the nephew of York County Prothonotary Pam (Platts) Lee.
"I try to live up to that legacy," he told The York Dispatch during a break from his field training. "My grandmother's headstone says, 'Hometown girl.'"
The rookie officer said he feels like a hometown guy. He interviewed with a few police departments in York County but had his heart set on working in York City, he said — so much so that he didn't interview with any police departments outside York County.
Although he was raised in the suburbs, T.J. Platts said he, like his family, considers York City "home."
Taught by example: He said although there was no expectation and no pressure on him from family to continue the family legacy of public service, he knew since middle school he would be either a police officer or a member of the military.
He credited his parents, grandparents and other family members as being role models who showed by example the importance of giving back to one's community.
Family members, while nervous that T.J. Platts' job requires him to put himself in dangerous situations, didn't try to talk him out of being a police officer.
"Everybody's been hugely positive," he said. "I can see the nervousness in my aunts and uncles when they talk to me about it ... and my dad? He's probably most nervous of everybody. But he's so excited for me and happy for me."
Judge Platts doesn't disagree with his son's assessment.
"That overprotective gene is just a constant as a parent, and I admit to being a bit overprotective of my sons," he said. "We also know that T.J. is joining a great department."
The elder Platts, for whom T.J. (Todd Jr.) is named, said he learned from his parents the importance of community service.
"I grew up with a very wonderful example of my parents' influence of giving back," he said. "Leslie and I have tried to instill that in T.J. and our other son Tom."
T.J. Platts has been a helper and a problem-solver from a young age, according to his father, who said being a police officer is an extension of those roles.
"We're very proud of him, and we know he'll work very hard at giving back to his community in a very honorable and dedicated fashion," the judge said.
Field training: T.J. Platts will undergo 20 weeks of field training, in which he rides with a seasoned field-training officer who will ensure the rookie is prepared for the day he rides alone.
"I want to be out in the field with the community — to have that human interaction and the ability to help people," he said. "Even if they're not having a good day and they end up taking it out on me ... I just have to approach everyone in a positive light and do what I can to make their day better."
T.J. Platts graduated from York Suburban High School in 2015, studied at Millersville University then transferred to York College, where he graduated in December 2018 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
He then enrolled in Harrisburg Area Community College's municipal police academy, from which he graduated in June.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.