A Refugee Goes From ‘Lost Boy’ Of Sudan To APD Officer

Officer Jacob Mach stands with Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields at the swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday.
Credit Courtesy of Atlanta Police Department
Audio version of this story here.

Jacob Mach was sworn in as an Atlanta police officer on Tuesday. What separates him from the others in his graduating class is that he’s a refugee – a “Lost Boy” of Sudan.

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Mach was one of 20,000 boys forced from their home in Sudan in 1987 because of the Second Sudanese Civil War. Only half survived the thousand-mile trek by foot to a refugee camp in Kenya.

Mach was a child when he escaped, but he still remembers that journey.

“We encountered a lot of difficulties,” he said. “A lot of friends died because of hunger, because of being eaten by wild animals.”

Now, Officer Mach wears a freshly pressed Atlanta Police Department uniform.

He arrived in the states when he was 21 years old as part of the group known as the “Lost Boys” of Sudan.

Mach said it wasn’t until after he graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in criminal justice that he decided he wanted to become a police officer. He was first accepted into APD’s recruitment academy in 2012 but didn’t pass all the tests.

“I was good in most areas,” Mach said. “My problem was the driving part. It’s not easy. When you see police officers, they’re good drivers. They’re very skillful drivers.”

Since then he’s spent a lot of time driving while working as a civilian code enforcement agent with the APD.

He was determined to pass the driving test the next time around and it paid off. He finally became an Atlanta police officer.

“The city has been wonderful to me,” Mach said. “I felt that there was a need for me to give back to the people of Atlanta.”

He said his son and his friends are thrilled by his accomplishment. 

Friday is his first day on the job. And yes, he said, he will be driving and enforcing the law.