Happily married with three children and an Orange Police Department officer for eight years, Jude King is in a very different place than where he was growing up.
For 4 1/2 years, between the ages of 8 and 12, King was homeless on the streets of Long Beach – near the 710 Freeway – alongside his mother and younger sister.
“When I was growing up, I never knew what I was going to do, but I knew I wasn’t going to get stuck,” said King, now a K9 officer and police academy recruit training officer, as well as a member of the SWAT team.
The three of them were living in Colorado when one day, his mom and her boyfriend packed them up quickly, fleeing to California. While at a hotel in downtown Long Beach, his mom’s boyfriend ran off with their car and belongings, leaving them stranded.
He never knew his father and only knows what his mom has told him, which is that he was involved in criminal activity.
“My mom always dated people that made bad choices,” he said.
Though homeless, he never stopped going to school.
“I loved school,” he said. “It was a safe place where I could escape all the drama at home.”
In the mornings, King would visit a nearby city-owned industrial building where he was able to wash up and comb his hair before heading to school. When not at school, he would often go to the public library to read and have somewhere to stay. Local churches would frequently bring food for the homeless in the area of the library.
“A lot of homeless people would [go]to that park to hang out,” he said.
Eventually his mom got on welfare and became stable enough financially to have an apartment – though they still moved in and out of apartments in Long Beach. There were also other boyfriends, often with drug addictions.
“I remember the cops being called to the house quite a few times,” he said. “I remember a lot of stuff.”
He remembers sitting outside of a local drug store having to beg for money with his sister when he was around 10.
“I was embarrassed, I was ashamed,” he said. “I just remember thinking: I don’t want this.”
And so even through the homelessness, the gang-infested neighborhoods and new schools he was shuffled through, he kept his grades up and himself out of trouble with the help of sports.
“My idea of success was not worrying about money, and having a roof over my head,” he said.
At 17, King was playing a lot of basketball and football, and also met his future wife at church. And around then, his mom wanted to move them all to Las Vegas.
“I realized that’s not something for me,” he said. “I didn’t want to move again.”
So he stayed in Long Beach, dropping out from extracurricular sports, became a janitor and started helping the assistant coach at the high school he was attending.
Then he had an opportunity to work for the city of Whittier as a litter picker, which involved picking up any trash that fell off of garbage trucks.
He transferred to a local high school in Whittier and graduated early to work two jobs and attend college.
Then, working full-time for the city, he became an engineering technician, helping engineers with road surveying, while he attended college. (He would eventually graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public administration and sociology from Cal State Fullerton.)
He got married, had his first child and was playing basketball regularly with fellow city employees when he realized he wanted a job in community service. It was about this time that one of the city employees from Whittier and a member of his church both suggested he look into becoming a police officer.
King went on a couple of ridealongs.
“Loved it,” he said. “Fell in love with it, really.”
He was eventually hired by Orange PD, which sponsored him through the police academy. He soon started volunteering with the academy to help with training, becoming a recruit training officer two years ago. Before becoming a K9 officer 1 1/2 years ago, he also worked in the gang unit for four years.
“I believe in the work we do,” he said. “I believe in the future of this profession.”
King makes it a point to keep a positive outlook on things – to focus on what he learned from his experiences growing up rather than on the negatives of that time.
“You can become a victim, or you can see it as character building,” he said. “I don’t dwell on it.
“I recognize and accept the past but understand that today’s actions and choices help form tomorrow’s successes and failures.”