In a talk on leadership during Elizabethtown College's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., Kristal Turner-Childs shared two stories Wednesday that helped lead her to a career in police work.
The encounters involved regular police officers doing their jobs.
But it was how they executed those duties that mattered, according to Turner-Childs, the Pennsylvania State Police's first black woman troop commander and the second black woman major.
"You lead where you are, no matter what station of life you are in," Turner-Childs, 54, who is also an Elizabethtown alumna, told the audience of about three-dozen people.
In the first encounter, she was a young girl living in Harrisburg.
She heard a commotion and ran to it. A man lay in the street, bleeding from the head.
She ran home and, against her mother's rule of not touching the telephone, called 911.
An officer soon responded to her house because that's where the call originated. (This was pre-cellphone.)
Her mother told the officer she didn't call 911.
The officer asked Turner-Childs if it was she who called.
Yes, she replied.
"Hey listen. You probably saved that young man's life today. You did the right thing," she recounted the officer telling her.
He was just a patrol officer, she said, "But he was a leader. He made me feel 10 feet tall" and inspired in her a desire to help others.
In the other encounter, she was a college student and was admittedly speeding back to Indiana University of Pennsylvania when a state trooper stopped her.
The trooper addressed her as ma'am and, after their encounter, told her to have a nice day and be safe.
Intrigued by that interaction and noting that not all of her encounters with police had been friendly, she decided to research the state police.
She found there weren't many women troopers, let alone black women troopers.
And during a question-and-answer period, she shared another encounter to underscore that policing is still dominated by white males and has a way to come still.
She recounted how after preparing an estimated 365 hours for her corporal test, a white male corporal remarked she'd scored well.
He asked: Don't they give minorities the answers?
Don't you think, she responded, that if that had been the case, I would have gotten them all right?
Turner-Childs said she tries to lead by encouraging others and treating people with human kindness.
"When you call us, you ain't happy ... but when it's over, I want to leave you feeling a little better," she said.
Lauryn Mitchell, 21, a psychology major from Leesburg, Virginia, said she found Turner-Childs' talk beneficial in understanding police and community connections.