White House Honorees Build Bridges between Youth and Law Enforcement

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Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch

Seven pairs of young people and law enforcement officials as  who are building bridges between youth and law enforcement, while improving public safety will be honored as “Champions of Change” at The White House, Monday, September 21.

In addition to honoring these young people and law enforcement officials for their courage and contributions, this event will highlight lessons learned that can help to inform similar efforts across the country.  The program will also feature remarks by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and National Basketball Association player Caron Butler. 

Strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities while enhancing public safety has been a key priority throughout the Administration.  Earlier this year, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued recommendations on issues such as building trust and legitimacy, community policing, and officer safety and wellness.  In 2014, the United States Department of Justice launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a nationwide program designed to enhance procedural justice, reduce bias, and facilitate reconciliation.  The Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office and Office of Justice Programs provide law enforcement agencies with resources and tools to advance public safety through community-oriented policing, prevention, and early intervention programs.  The My Brother’s Keeper initiative is also committed to reducing youth exposure to violence and improving trust between youth and police officers.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.  The event will be live streamed on the White House website.  To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live on September 21 at 1:30 PM ET. 

To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.  Follow the conversation at #WHChamps.

Alex Bielawski, Grand Prairie, Texas

Alex Bielawski is a sergeant who has served for 30 years with the Grand Prairie Texas Police Department.  He has spent the majority of his career working patrol as both an officer and as a supervisor.  He also served 11 years on the SWAT team.  He currently works in the Community Services unit responsible for School Resource Officers assigned to Grand Prairie schools.  In 2012, Sergeant Bielawski established the Grand Prairie Police Department Youth Boxing Program, which has helped to strengthen cooperation between the Grand Prairie Police Department, young athletes, parents, and Grand Prairie schools.

Indeya Smith, Grand Prairie, Texas

Indeya Smith is currently a student at Tarrant County Community College and an intern with the Grand Prairie Police Department.  She grew up in New Orleans, and moved to Grand Prairie, Texas, after Hurricane Katrina.  She currently competes for the Grand Prairie Police Youth Boxing Program and is nationally ranked.  She has participated and trained with the Grand Prairie Police Department Youth Boxing Program alongside Sergeant Alex Bielawski since 2012.  The program has provided Indeya with goals to accomplish, and opened the door for her current internship with the Grand Prairie Police Department. 

Anthony Davis, Bonner Springs, Kansas

Master Patrol Officer Anthony Davis serves as the School Resource Officer for the Bonner Springs/Edwardsville School District in Kansas and teaches Criminal Justice Classes at Bonner Springs High School, where he mentors and coaches students like Blake McMahan.  Under his leadership, two students from the Bonner Springs High School’s Criminal Justice Program were among the top three scorers in the Kansas Skills USA Criminal Justice competition last year.  Officer Davis’ efforts have significantly strengthened the relationship between the Bonner Springs Police Department and the broader community.

Blake McMahan, Bonner Springs, Kansas

Blake McMahan is a senior at Bonner Springs High School.  He currently serves as President of the Criminal Justice Club and is responsible for several initiatives that have increased student participation and strengthened ties with the local police department.  Last year, he placed third in the Kansas Skills USA Criminal Justice competition.  This past summer, Blake spent over 160 hours volunteering at the Bonner Springs Police Department and hopes to one day work in the Department as an officer.

Ric DeLand, Portland, Oregon

Ric DeLand is a 25-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau.  In 2014, Officer DeLand supervised a foot patrol pilot project, which used an innovative, relationship-based approach to address neighborhood concerns including youth homelessness, livability, behavioral impact, and crime.  The project invited youth to be active participants in positively impacting these areas.  This approach produced a 25 percent reduction in crime and improved relationships and cooperation between police, homeless youth, service providers, local government, businesses, and residents.  The project serves as a national model for homeless advocates and service providers and was praised by businesses and residents for its positive impact on the community.

Celia Luce, Portland, Oregon

Celia Luce is a Peer Mentor with Outside In, one of four Homeless Youth Continuum partner agencies in Multnomah County, Oregon.  Along with a team of other mentors, alcohol and drug specialists, and mental health specialists, she helps build a recovery culture among transition-age homeless youth.  Her work includes connecting youth with treatment options and resources in the community, and helping them navigate social service systems.  She assists with street outreach and coordinates with Portland Police Bureau’s foot patrol in downtown Portland.  Celia, who grew up in Portland, now works with the Portland Police and other organizations to build partnerships and be a mentor for homeless youth in her community.

Jacques Gilbert, Apex, North Carolina

Jacques Gilbert is a Captain with the Apex Police Department, where he has served for over 25 years.  In 2012, Captain Gilbert came to realize that there was a growing need for youth who enjoy skateboarding to have a place to skate safely.  He then worked with Tracy Stallworth and other young people to help launch a community project to build a skate park.  As a result of this effort, in August 2015, the Rodgers Family Skate Plaza at Trackside, a free-use town facility, officially opened.  The project has improved relationships between Apex police officers and youth in the community, who can now use the skate park freely.

Tracy Stallworth, Apex, North Carolina

Tracy Stallworth is a 20-year-old young man who dreams of being a professional skate boarder.  At the age of 15, after several incidents of a neighbor reporting Tracy and his friends to the police for riding their skateboards, Tracy decided to reach out to the police and encouraged his friends to do same.  In the course of that outreach he met Captain Jacques Gilbert.  Working with Captain Gilbert, Tracy and his friends started a city skate team, performed community service, reached out to local business owners, and eventually presented their ideas to the Apex City Council.  As a result of these efforts, the Rodgers Family Skate Plaza at Trackside was opened in Apex earlier this year.

Hiram Otero, Hartford, Connecticut

Hiram Otero serves as the Faith Based Initiative Community Service Officer for the South District of Hartford.  Officer Otero works in collaboration with the faith based community, local and state agencies to improve the quality of life for the residents and citizens of Hartford.  Earlier this year, Officer Otero and Kayke Lopes both participated in the Charter Oak Cultural Center Good Vibrations program, which provides mentoring services to local youth through the arts, teaching them how to play the guitar, rap, and write poetry.  Officer Otero and colleagues helped recruit students who were at a crossroads to participate in the mentoring program.  During the three-and-a-half month program, officers and youth helped to lift the negative stigma between police and youth through open discussions about racism, crime, government, and family.

Kayke Lopes, Hartford, Connecticut

Kayke Lopes is a seventh grader at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy in Hartford.  He participated in the Good Vibrations Program at Charter Oak Cultural Center with Hartford Police Officer Hiram Otero in spring 2015.  The classes offered through this program brought together Hartford police officers and community youth through a shared rap poetry class where they wrote, performed, and recorded original pieces.  During the program, Kayke actively contributed to discussions with police officers and excelled in the artistic process.  Kayke, who was previously suspicious of law enforcement, is now interested in becoming a police officer when he graduates from high school.

Laurie Reyes, Montgomery County, Maryland

Officer Laurie Reyes has been a Montgomery County Police Officer for 17 years.  In 2005, she created and implemented what is now the Department’s Autism and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Outreach Program and has served in this program since that time.  Officer Reyes initially developed the program to address increasing calls for service involving individuals with autism and IDD.  Through this program, she has worked to make sure that the Montgomery County police academy provides police officers with the necessary tools to develop positive interactions with autism and IDD communities.  She and her colleagues have also worked with individuals with autism and IDD, including Jake Edwards, and their caregivers through proactive programs like the Department’s annual Autism Night Out event.

Jake Edwards, Germantown, Maryland

Jake Edwards is a seventh grade student at Kennedy Krieger School in Montgomery County.  He was recently named Autism Ambassador for Montgomery County Police Department during its annual Autism Night Out event, which aims to teach law enforcement about individuals with autism.  His appointment to this position came after his own experiences with police when he felt very scared.  Jake overcame his fear and is now educating other law enforcement agencies on how to respectfully interact with friends with autism and identify their challenges.  He has been invited to help train the newest round of police cadets in Montgomery County and take part in Crisis Intervention Training in North Carolina.  He has been featured in national publications, spoken to college graduate classes, churches, conferences, autism events, and educators at the Maryland Statehouse, as well as live television appearances.

Bill Singleton, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Bill Singleton works with youth as a police officer in the Office of Community Outreach and Education for the Milwaukee Police Department.  He is a member of the team that created and developed the international award-winning Students Talking It Over with Police (STOP) Program, an evidence-based program aimed at cultivating sustainable positive relationships by decreasing initial volatile interactions.  In an effort to continue building relationships between police and youth in his community, he partnered with Erica Lofton to help distribute her anti-violence bracelets to residents in the City of Milwaukee. 

Erica Lofton, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Erica Lofton is the 14-year-old founder of Girls in Action, Inc., an organization that promotes leadership among young girls.  In response to violence in her community, Erica testified before the Milwaukee Common Council and successfully advocated for the naming of May as Violence Prevention Month.  Erica then used money she had earned from a talent show to purchase bracelets that say “I don’t commit violence, I speak out against it.” She also reached out to local businesses, agencies, and schools to distribute the bracelets while encouraging individuals in her community to pledge their commitment to nonviolence.  As a result of these efforts, over 2,000 people have received this bracelet and taken the pledge, including Mayor Tom Barrett, several Milwaukee Alderman, members of the Milwaukee Police Department, church leaders, Milwaukee Public School students, and others.

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