In terms of his career path, a New Jersey native assumed he was out for blood, so to speak.
After all, many of his relatives were employed in the medical field, and he had worked in hospitals since high school, eventually receiving training as a phlebotomist. But after a decade of drawing blood, Cpl. Brad DeSando, who had relocated to Pennsylvania, said he felt a tug toward law enforcement. So he enrolled in the Delaware County Community College’s Police Academy.
Soon after earning his certification, DeSando accepted a job in the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. Since then, he has found myriad ways to combine his medical training with his interest in community outreach, passions that extend to his family life.
Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh recalled being impressed with DeSando’s credentials when she hired him in 2008.
“Cpl. DeSando came to us with a unique background,” said Welsh. “Not only did he have great people skills, but he also had medical training that I knew would benefit the office.”
In fact, after about two years on the job, DeSando received EMT training through the office, expertise that he immediately put to work. According to office records, deputies routinely handle more than 50 emergency medical calls a year. Welsh said they run the gamut from heart attacks to panic attacks.
“Having someone available to treat people ranging from jurors to prisoners to employees is vitally important,” said Welsh.
DeSando said one indelible memory involved a woman who experienced a medical emergency at the county’s annual Freedom Fest. He suspected a drug overdose and called an ambulance; however, the woman’s boyfriend strenuously objected, insisting that she just needed to get out of the heat. DeSando was not persuaded. Minutes later, the woman coded in the ambulance, where she was revived.
“I really wanted the boyfriend to come back and apologize,” DeSando said. And although that didn’t happen, DeSando did subsequently receive a county life-saving award.
DeSando’s role in community relations for the Sheriff’s Office also developed quickly and seamlessly. His supervisor during his initial training for the office, Sgt. Janis Pickell, had been handling outside events. DeSando said he began assisting her and just “fell into” the position. Now, he serves as the liaison between the office and county citizens. Typically, they are seeking services that range from child safety seat inspections to courthouse tours.
“I enjoy giving members of the public a different perspective on law enforcement,” he said. “You don’t always have to be a hammer.”
That same kind of engagement has carried over into his family life. Married with a son and a daughter, DeSando said he was delighted when his son Nick shared his interest in wrestling. One thing led to another, and suddenly he found himself coaching his son’s team through the Coatesville Youth Sports program. Now going into second grade, his son is in his third year of the sport.
DeSando said he found the experience rewarding, but it came with challenges. The athletic program is not funded by the Coatesville Area School District and practice space was limited, sometimes even non-existent. Because the team has no home base, matches all get played at their opponents’ facilities.
Fortunately for the young wrestlers, they were not alone. Similar difficulties existed with other sports teams, some of whom had struggled to use Coatesville’s dilapidated Scott Stadium.
Fast forward to early 2017 when the district approved the Scott Field Project, a comprehensive, volunteer effort to return the stadium to its former glory. A GoFundMe page as well as a 501(c)(3) was created, and work began on the multi-phase initiative. DeSando said he got involved after Steve Kirk, president of the project, explained the initiative.
DeSando said the project’s current phase, which focuses on establishing a multi-sport fieldhouse for training young athletes, especially resonated with him. He said members of the public can support the effort through donations of money or time.
“There is nothing like team sports to teach kids teamwork and self-worth,” DeSando said, adding that parents’ involvement in the project also sets a good example.
About the same time, DeSando became involved in another 501(c)(3), this time for the Friends of the Chester County Sheriff’s K-9. Like the sports programs, the CCSO’s award-winning K-9 program relies on donations for funding that isn’t provided by the county.
“It’s an invaluable service our office provides,” DeSando said, citing the skyrocketing demand for K-9 assistance. “The FCCSK9 needed leadership so I offered to do it.”
DeSando, the past president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Chester County, also serves at the second vice president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Pennsylvania, a position that will land him the top DSAP post in 2021. In January, DeSando received the “You Rock Award,” an honor bestowed by members of the office every quarter to recognize exemplary service.
“Cpl. DeSando has been a versatile asset to the office,” said Welsh, noting his frequent presence in the lobby of the Chester County Justice Center. “His emergency training and his outstanding people skills consistently make a positive difference.”