Coastal Star: For Ocean Ridge officer, ‘community’ is first in her job title — and focus

Debra Boyle, Ocean Ridge’s first dedicated community policing officer, talks with Susan Ezekiel while on patrol. Ezekiel’s dogs are Cody and Jessie. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Margie Plunkett

The Ocean Ridge Police Department sent an SUV full of school supplies to children in the care of Palm Beach County in August, a delivery that included 150 book bags, binders, paper folders, glue sticks and composition books.
“We want to make sure children going back to school are successful,” said Officer Debra Boyle, the department’s community policing officer. “Every child needs to have a smile on their face regardless of their circumstances.”
Boyle was the officer behind the department’s successful community school supply drive that ended in early August. As community policing officer, she helps look out for Ocean Ridge residents. She’s been with the department for 21/2 years, but nobody knows her as Officer Boyle. “Everybody knows Debra,” she says.
The 46-year-old Boynton Beach resident helps the community in many ways — checking on elderly people, setting up a CPR class. She might be out informing residents on how to stay safe entering their cars, or teaching them how to protect themselves against scams.
“I enjoy working with the residents and doing for the community,” Boyle said. “I have a passion when it comes to children. I definitely love helping out — with the elderly, too. If they need something from across the bridge, I’ll pick it up for them, or I’ll transport them there.”
Boyle was chosen as Ocean Ridge’s first dedicated community policing officer, a position created last year with the goal of having “a true community partnership that makes folks not only feel safe and secure, but makes a difference in the lives of those we serve every day,” explained Police Chief Hal Hutchins.
While police work keeps her busy, Boyle does have a life outside the job. She and her husband, Doug, have four children and two grandchildren. In her spare time, Boyle enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.
Hutchins called Boyle a “passionate professional in her work and caring person who uses her passions to be a great police officer.”
She is able “to bring people together and develop relationships, fixing little issues before they become larger. She is a true community ambassador.”
Boyle was drawn to law enforcement by her desire to “give back to the community in a positive way,” she said. She went to a law enforcement program in Athens, Georgia, and Florida’s St. Petersburg College Law Enforcement Academy, where she was certified.
While in Georgia, she worked in the juvenile court system. It influenced her decision to conduct both the most recent school supply drive and last year’s Christmas toy drive on behalf of the children under county care.
“I felt this was the way to go because these kids are away from their families” or they’re with their families but working through a plan with county supervision, she said. There are 1,600 to 1,700 children under Palm Beach County care, from birth through age 18, in situations including foster homes and group homes, according to Boyle.
“The donations were delightful” for the school supply drive, Boyle said. Those still wishing to give can look for the start of this year’s toy drive in October.
Hutchins said the school supply and toy drives were Boyle’s idea, along with coordinating beach cleanups conducted with Florida Atlantic University and the town’s Garden Club. “I think her efforts were a huge success on many fronts,” he said.
“She has helped raise awareness of the needs of some of our less fortunate community members. She has brought the community together for a common cause,” Hutchins said. “Most importantly, she has built a network that opened a candid dialogue with a lot of residents, not just from Ocean Ridge, but from Briny Breezes, the County Pocket and other surrounding communities.”
What’s most significant to Boyle so far in her experience working in Ocean Ridge? “Just the love and support from the community,” she says. “How everybody pulls together.”

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