I am not a cop, but I’ve worked alongside them for 14 years. I am not blindly “pro-police,” nor am I blind to the reality of racial issues that tragically exist in American society.
I also don’t want to point fingers, as my intention is to simply share what I witness from the front row seat alongside kids, cops and communities. In my work as the founder and CEO of Team Kids, I serve alongside incredible police and sheriff partners in the trenches of our public schools to support and empower our next generation of leaders.
Despite the never-ending and divisive news stories that dominate our screens, I believe the vast majority of American citizens, including police officers, want the same thing: a safe community to live and work.
Tragically, the media has ignited and accelerated a bitter divisiveness and anger between law enforcement and our communities. This culture of mistrust is ultimately hurting everyone, especially our children. The only way to bridge this tragic divide is through strengthening relationships and building trust.
Just as the media continues to focus on negative stories about police, it is critical that the public shares the powerful and positive contributions by the police officers that serve our communities.
Since 2001, I have witnessed countless acts of quiet compassion from our law enforcement partners. One incredible officer spent her own money to anonymously buy bikes and helmets for young sisters living in a domestic violence shelter after overhearing a girl say Santa was bringing them bikes. We all knew the family was not in any position to deliver on this innocent and hopeful Christmas wish. The officer only asked that no one knew she purchased the bikes.
She had them delivered and made sure all credit went to the big guy in red. The girls were surprised and elated knowing they weren’t forgotten during such a challenging year.
After working with a teenager who ended up in some trouble with the law, a deputy police chief wrote a personal check for hundreds of dollars to get the young man’s car out of a tow yard and help him keep his job. We worked with this boy on a contract to help him get on the right path, and even attended his juvenile court appearances to ensure he didn’t get lost in the system.
This cop took time to discuss the contract, which included discussions of the young man’s goals, how to achieve them and an offer to remain as a mentor. The deputy chief didn’t want any monetary repayment for the gift. He just asked that this young man would commit to pay it forward someday when he saw someone who needed a helping hand.
One might say that these are just the exceptions of cops doing great things. But these real life stories illustrate the type of compassion I witness every day. I am proud of the collaborative and powerful outcomes we are securing for children, and I could fill a book with examples of officers who have gone far outside their responsibilities and duties to make life easier for someone in need of help. It continues to be an honor and a privilege to witness the countless ways our police work in partnership with our communities.
If we want different outcomes with adults and law enforcement in our communities, it seems logical that we need to invest in different relationships with our kids. I can’t imagine anyone is happy with the current conditions, and our communities can’t afford anything less than trusting partnerships with those who are sworn to serve and protect.
And don’t we all want the same thing: a safe community for all, regardless of color, gender, race or orientation, for our citizens, our children and our cops?
Julie Hudash is the Founder/CEO, Team Kids. Visit their website at www.teamkids.org. You can reach her at Jhudash@teamkids.org