By STEVE STEINER
Had it not been for a program (now discontinued) from the Gary Sinise Foundation, Bradly Hill believes he might not be a law enforcement officer with the Tampa Police Department. Several years after leaving the U.S. Army, where he served from 2008-2009 in Iraq as a Military Police (M.P.) officer, the 2008 Hernando High School graduate didn’t know what to do after serving five years in the military. “I couldn’t get a job anywhere,” Hill said. At one point, he seriously considered becoming a truck driver and earned his CDL license. He did this for six months until one day, he got a tongue-lashing from a sister. “My sister called one day and said, ‘Are you done messing around?’” She let him know the Tampa Police Department (TPD) was accepting applications, so Hill traveled to Saint Petersburg to take the state exam, which he passed. Because he already had served as an M.P. in the U.S. Army, he was eligible for a two-week high liability crossover training program, allowing him to bypass attending police academy classes.
Once training finished, Hill put in an application with TPD. That meant going before a board for an in-person interview. This is where Hill grew concerned. He didn’t own a suit or, at the very least, a sport coat ensemble. Fortunately, he learned about a program being conducted by the Gary Sinise Foundation. Founded by the actor (in great measure the result of his role as “Lieutenant Dan” in “Forrest Gump”), the foundation offered assistance to veterans who had left the military in good standing. Hill received a voucher from the foundation, which was working with clothier Jos. A Banks, and was fitted with a tailor-made suit. Hill believes his appearance in his suit (which, he said, still fits today) helped him get hired.
Once hired, he served in several divisions, including the plainclothes division. Then he got on to the motor unit (i.e., motorcycle patrol) as an alternate, where he was an alternate for two years before joining on a full-time basis.
In the course of his career, his path crossed with Fox-13 news photographer Jason Wright. Although wary at first, considering how sometimes the news might be at odds with law enforcement, a friendship developed between the two. When Wright learned about a desire on Hill’s part to personally thank
Gary Sinise, of course, Wright wanted Hill to tell his story as a feature on the news. “He always was wanting to get this on TV,” said Hill. “I didn’t want to do it.”
Wright was undeterred, and although it took two years, the “trap” was set. Hill was asked to come in for a meeting in a conference room. Through a Zoom conference, Hill was greeted by Sinise. It’s a moment he treasures to this day. “They got me pretty good,” said Hill. He smiled at the recollection, as well as that of another on that same day. As part of the filming for the segment, Hill was to ride off on his motorcycle, which he eventually did.
But before the clip could be filmed, he was approached by two homeless men. One of them was bleeding profusely. Hill was able to get him to the emergency room at a nearby hospital.
AS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON ONE’S FACE
As he recounted his story, Hill reflected how it didn’t occur to him to go into law enforcement until a sister of his pulled him up short.
“My (oldest) brother was the first black officer in Zephyrhills. He’s now with Tampa PD. A sister is a major captain, and another older brother is a detective. A younger brother is a patrol officer,” said Hill, who then remembered one thing further. “Dad was a neighborhood watch volunteer.”
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(Editor’s note: Permission to speak with Wright for comment was not granted by Fox-13.)