Hometown Hero: Providence cop’s community policing changing lives
By: Alexandra Cowley
25–year-veteran of the Providence Police Department, Mike Matracia, was diagnosed with a life changing disease half way through his career: Multiple Sclerosis.
"I believe that I’m a lucky person. Yeah MS ain’t the end of the world, it could be worse," explained Mike.
It was a tough diagnosis for a cop who prides himself on getting out in the community and making a difference. When the doctor gave him the news he made a choice to continue working in the community. Not making arrests or busting criminals. Instead, inspiring others and changing the way people with disabilities are viewed.
"Being on this job for 25 years and seeing so much trauma and family hurt, I feel blessed. I feel blessed that I am able to still do it and make a difference in the community that I work in," said Mike.
Matracia’s career has taken him on plenty of adventures. Working for then Mayor, Buddy Cianci, and working security when Hillary Clinton came to town. You can imagine the stories he has to tell. But we think his best story, is the one he’s living right now.
Mike was diagnosed with MS in 1998. He remembers the day he got the news.
"I looked at my Dr. and my wife at the time and I said MS can’t be that bad," he explained.
It was, and still is, the hardest thing he’s faced in his life.
"You go through all these different levels of depression, anxiety, not knowing what’s going on, what to expect. So it was levels and I’ve dealt with every one," he said.
At first, the disease let him continue working for the Mayor. But as it slowly progressed, Mike transitioned into administration, where he’s worked under a handful of chiefs.
"All of them had different visions but I think Colonel Clements is doing the best job yet," he laughed.
If you can’t tell, Mike has a great personality and a smile that’s known to light up the police department. His positive attitude and perseverance are what led him to make his biggest impact yet. Five years ago he help start the MS dream center. From there, he got involved in a handful of organizations that help people living with disabilities. Mike is Vice President of the MS Dream Center in Cranston.
"With the MS Dream Center, I learned that there are other people that have a lot more challenges than I have," Mike explained.
Mike started a program at the department where kids and adults with disabilities get to shadow him on the job. They become police officers for the day.The guys get a shirt and badge and tag along with Mike on his daily duties.
The purpose of the program is to build self esteem and social skills. Mike says its worked for them.
"It’s gratifying to see these guys come in and smile," he said.
Having the guys around only magnifies Mike’s MO: a guy who’s taken a tough blow and turned it into something great.
"If I could say anything it would be that the community and people out there understand that everybody is an individual. We all are people, so give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them the benefit of the doubt, because they can do just about anything," Mike said.
As if Mike isn’t cool enough, it’s said that he was the inspiration for Joe from Family Guy. Mike and the show’s creator, Seth MacFarlane crossed paths back when Mike worked for Mayor Cianci and Seth was going to school at RISD.
Here are the links to the organizations Mike is a part of:
© WLNE-TV 2015