Former Police Officer, Now Security Guard, Keeps GDS Safe

Photo by Shaila Joshi. 

On Halloween morning in 2010, high school security staff member Joe Adams’ life was at stake when an armed robber shot him in the leg. Adams, who at the time was a D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, responded to a holdup alarm from a new CVS Pharmacy that had just opened up. When he walked into the store, an armed robber shot a barrage of gunshots at Adams from the back of the store. Adams was able to return fire and arrest the robber, but as a result of his injury, he had to go off duty for three months.

Adams has been working at GDS since 2019. Every weekday afternoon, he goes down to the high school and middle school garages to manage carpooling. Afterward, he patrols the premises and makes sure there are no cars left in the garage when the school closes. 

Adams explained that mentally the hardest part about getting shot was having to go back to work after his recovery. He added that being shot at any time was just part of being a police officer. “You prepare for it, but you’re not prepared for it,” he said. 

Adams joined a support group of other police officers who had been shot. At their meetings, they would “talk it out” and “get it out of their system” so that “it wouldn’t be something to dwell on.”

Before coming to GDS, Adams worked as a D.C. police officer for 30 years in the Second District Precinct. He went into college wanting to be an elementary school teacher, just as many of his family members had done. “It was like I was following in their footsteps,” he said.

As a sophomore in college, however, a career in the police department piqued his interest after he saw various advertisements around campus. It was at that point that he decided to become a police officer because he was looking for “a change of pace.” So he joined the MPD’s Cadet Corps, a program for University of District of Columbia students that trains them to become future officers. 

While training as a cadet, Adams’ first impression of the police force was that “it was a well-run, smooth operation.” After graduating from Cadet Corps, he was sworn in as a police officer at the age of 21, and he worked in that position for seven years.

While working in the Second District, Adams met Tony Harris, who now also works as a security staff member at GDS. The two of them worked together in the Administrative Office of the Second District Precinct for 15 years. “Not only were we coworkers, we were good friends,” Adams said. He added that their friendship has continued to grow throughout their time at GDS.

During his time at the MPD, Adams also worked part-time as a security guard at the Ascot Restaurant at 17th and L Streets in Northwest D.C. In the evening, the restaurant would transform into a nightclub, and after work, he and Harris would grab drinks together. 

As a patrol officer, Adams worked in a special division of the MPD called the Crime Analysis Division. Every morning, the officers in the Division would meet to discuss and analyze crime throughout the city. Adams was in charge of mapping and graphing the statistics of how many offenses occurred in the Second District during the previous night. He retired from the MPD in 2018. 

Adams worked part-time at Edmund Burke School as a traffic controller with Harris. While working there, Harris referred him to his current job at GDS. Adams took the job because he felt like it was “something that is worth my while” and “interesting” as opposed to directing traffic. 

When Harris was shot on the job last year, Adams said their friendship did not waver. 

Adams said that when he was shot, he depended on other people—including people he worked with—to get him through the injury, so he knew he had to provide the same support for Harris. “I knew how he felt,” Adams said.

“I try to treat people the way I’d want people to treat my children and grandchildren,” he said. Adams has two grandchildren in elementary school, one in high school and one in college.