RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Decades of training and experience boiled down to a few frantic minutes during a dogged ocean rescue to save the lives of two people.
Riviera Beach Police Department Officer Joseph Hoffman has a law enforcement career that spans more than two decades.
“I think the longer you work in the community, the more you fall in love with it,” Hoffman said. “Citizens and so on, you almost feel like they are your children.”
Building community for the past two years has been part of his personal duties while on beach patrol with the Riviera Beach Police Department.
But it’s not always all about fun, sun and sand. It certainly wasn’t June 6 of last year.
“I thank God for being there,” Hoffman said. “What are the odds I’m driving when that 12-year-old drowned over there.”
In the right place, at the right time, and not a second of hesitation.
“I basically stripped down and jumped in, swam around and grabbed the kid,” Hoffman said.
The officer became a lifeguard in the blink of an eye to save a 12-year-old boy who was fighting for his life in a rip current, 150 meters from shore.
“It was chopping and flowing and, I mean, it was so close,” Hoffman said.
Watch the heroic story of Officer Hoffman:
A Riviera Beach police officer hailed a hero after a rip current rescue
The stakes doubled after Hoffman observed a good Samaritan diving after the child and also got swept away.
“He got to the kid before me and the kid climbed on top of him and pushed him under. Because they’re freaked out, you know? They’re trying to survive,” Hoffman said.
Armed only with a buoy and a fighting spirit, Hoffman managed to bring the child and the Good Samaritan ashore and into the care of paramedics and lifeguards.
“The kid was spitting up salt water and they rushed him to St. Mary’s (medical center), I believe,” Hoffman said.
With a humble heart, Hoffman said he was just doing his job.
“That’s what you do as a decent human being,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think that makes anyone a hero at all.”
But others, including many of you at home and behind the badge, disagree, calling Hoffman’s lifesaving actions honorable and selfless.
Hoffman Friday was recognized for his heroism during the 2022 Law Enforcement Awards Luncheon at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. WPTV is a proud sponsor of the event.