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Behind the Badge with Officer Ed Wachala

CHAMPAIGN -- Get to know Officer Ed Wachala of the Champaign Police Department.
CHAMPAIGN -- Police officers and firefighters risk their lives every day, and it takes courage and commitment to keep our community safe. We wanted to know the person outside of the uniform. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine goes Behind the Badge with Officer Ed Wachala from the Champaign Police Department.

There's a lot more to these men and women than just their job description. Ed Wachala is an example of that. He's the Champaign Police Officer of the Year. More than that, he's a father, husband, and believe it or not, he has a green thumb.

Colton Kretsinger, a student at Centennial High School, says "You just see him walking around the school and he's a friend to almost everybody."

A friend in uniform.

Kretsinger goes on to say, "He gives great advice. He's willing to look out for you. He'll point you in the right direction if he thinks you're going down the wrong road. You just get the sense that he's always there for you."'

Students say they feel safe knowing Officer Wachala is around, but his influence stretches beyond his badge.

"My relationship with him is like a father. We joke around. He makes sure I'm out of trouble. He just looks after me while I'm here at Centennial," says student Martese Strong-Terry.

When he's off the clock, Wachala puts down his weapon and grabs a shovel.

"Can't get closer to God than digging in the dirt, that's how I look at it," says Wachala.

He says the job can be stressful; working in the backyard is therapy.

"I was always interested in flowers and landscaping," says Wachala.

That started as a teenager while working at Prairie Gardens, in Champaign.

"I got a lot of Japanese Maples in the yard. We'll see how they do. I didn't have any last year and now I have 11."

Not to mention, Wachala built a waterfall brick by brick.

"I told my wife, I wanted a mini Yellowstone Park in my yard. So I'm trying to do something like that. A lot of waterfalls at Yellowstone. A lot of cedar trees," says Wachala.

A comfortable space to enjoy with his loving family.

"My wife is fantastic. My kids are terrific. Couldn't ask for more. Probably got a lot more than I deserved," says Wachala.

His wife, Sheri, says, "He's a hard worker. He's never boring. He's just a really nice guy. Honest, hardworking. Salt to the earth kind of fella.

Officer Wachala says his father and grandfather played big roles in his life. He tries his best to be a good father to his kids.

"He's always been there for me, and so has my mom. So, it's just the support of being there," says daughter, Sierra.

Growing up, he wasn't sure about a career path. He became a cop at 32, but he makes it a point to tell his children one thing.

"Find something you enjoy and you won't have to work a day in your life. I really believe that. My father taught me that."
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