Lt. Charley Lyke is a police officer, but he has a unique mission.
“We are here to serve those who served,” explains Lt. Lyke, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs at Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Lt. Lyke and his fellow VA police officers work in a highly stressful environment where the job goes way beyond providing basic security.
Lt. Lyke served in the Army with Operation Desert Storm between 1989 and 1992. As a veteran, it is his personal mission to help fellow veterans who are battling new wounds and old scars both visible and invisible. To him, veterans who’ve come through the VA’s doors should get the best health care and assistance they could receive.
That’s why years ago, Lt. Lyke led an effort to ensure the VA police’s presence in all 13 community-based outpatient clinics in the Cleveland area. His continued advocacy for VA police at these clinics led to the formation of a team of four officers who now patrol the 13 clinics every day.
Besides talking to veterans and helping them get the care they need during his work hours, Lt. Lyke gives out his business cards to veterans and tells them to call him whenever they need help. And when they call, even off hours, he answers. There’s never a problem too small or too big – Lt. Lyke is always there for the veterans he serves, no matter what they’re going through.
“His style and approach to talking to his fellow veterans has been really successful. He's guided veterans to seek help for suicidal thoughts and anger management,” said Pamyla Motley, executive vice president of AFGE Local 31 which represents VA employees in the Cleveland area. “Our veterans feel comfortable approaching him and engaging in conversation with him.”
The VA police’s presence also gives VA employees at these clinics a peace of mind. When Lt. Lyke arrives at a clinic, he stops by and talks to the director, who informs him of upcoming appointments of patients who tend to misbehave. He’s always there to make sure everything goes smoothly and offer assistance to any veteran who needs it.
Lt. Lyke also trains local police officers to spot veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder so that the local authorities can help veterans seek help from the VA rather than go into the criminal justice system.
Lt. Lyke is also a strong advocate for female VA police officers. To him, female officers are a huge asset because of their unique perspective and the fact that many veterans, particularly LGBT and female veterans who have been through sexual trauma, are only comfortable talking to female police officers.
While working to help veterans get the care they need, Lt. Lyke also strives to enforce the law, working with the county sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices within the last two years to bring two perpetrators to justice.
Lt. Lyke has a good relationship with local police officers because he used to be one of them. He began his career as a police officer in Huron County, Ohio, in 2000. Four years later, he joined the VA. He became an AFGE member in 2008 and served as a steward from 2008 to 2013 until his duties required him to relinquish his position.
His work on behalf of veterans doesn’t stop after he clocks out. As president of the Decker and Wilcox Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #175, he has organized several fundraisers, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase electric wheelchairs for children of veterans. He also volunteers at the Heroes Health Fairs to educate and help new veterans sign up for VA benefits.
Because of all these amazing things he has done for fellow veterans and police officers, Lt. Lyke was awarded AFGE’s Law Enforcement of the Year, our union’s highest honor for law enforcement officers. Our hearty congratulations to our in-house hero, Lt. Lyke!