Oklahoma City police's juvenile program lays groundwork for life skills
The first wave of minor offenders and forward-thinking youths have graduated from Oklahoma City police's first Juvenile Intervention Program.
The six-week course serves as a diversion for low-level offenses adjudicated in the municipal courts, and as a leadership course for students who hope to get ahead or want a reference for their resumes.
Every Thursday, the teens met with police officers to watch instructional videos, role play and discuss situations in their lives and how they could be successfully mitigated for the better.
On March 2, the first 10 students graduated during a ceremony at the Metro Technology Centers Springlake campus in northeast Oklahoma City.
"We don't do enough to provide support for our youth who, early on, make those mistakes. And that's what this program is about, getting involved before it gets worse," Police Chief Bill Citty said during the ceremony.
"Getting in trouble is part of being a youth ... but that doesn't make you a lost cause," he said.
"Things are changing. Law enforcement is doing a lot more in trying to make an individual better. It's better for us in law enforcement because it helps us balance what we do. We still have to lock people up, but we also want to help people, and I think with a program like this, we're going to have that opportunity," Citty said.
Graduates, who were given framed certificates for completing the program, were Joanna Aragon, Donte Ballard, Tyree Ballard, Jordan Cheathem, Alexandra Colbert, Robert Crosby, Tatyana Dorsey, Brittney Harris, Kendrick Hicks, Kendrick Morton, Alex Rosillo and Cayveon Walton.
The program is funded as a portion of the Safe Oklahoma Grant, targeting the city's northeast side.
"The JIP was the juvenile component of the Safe grant. We knew we had to have something for the juveniles to be a part of ... children, kids, in certain phases of their lives, when they need help the most are given some core guidance, foundations and principles, showing that the community cares about them, the people in the police department care about them," Maj. Don Martin said.
Martin is commander of the Springlake Division, which patrols northeast Oklahoma City.
"I, by no means, was a saint," Martin told the graduates. "I got in trouble just like everybody else did. But I had good people in my life to point me in the right direction," Martin said.
"I want you guys to take a second to look left, look right, look behind you, look in front of you, look at each other. Long after we're gone — I'm gone, Chief Citty's gone — one of you may run the department. One of you may be councilman, one of you may be the mayor, one of you may be CEO or a doctor, one of you may own your own company. Whatever excites you, drives you, latch onto that and push for it, because there's nothing in life that can hold you back," Martin said.
"If you've got a dream, go after it. If somebody tries to tear you down and tell you (that) you can't do it, push them aside and keep on moving. You're going to find in life most people judge you for your trials and tribulations and watch how you deal with that, not how you deal with the wins and easy victories," he said.
Sgt. Tomas Daugherty leads the juvenile intervention program along with help from Sgt. Randy Chapa and Sgt. Kristin Ceder.
"I've got the best position on the department. I get to work with young people and change our communities," Daugherty said.
"We're excited about the overall attendance. The parent support is the biggest. We couldn't do it without the parents' support. I speak to a parent probably once a week, without the student knowing about it, just to follow up and say, 'Hey, they're doing well,'" he said.
"It makes me look forward to the next class coming up. And then the next class. They're going to have a good reference for jobs, for college, for whatever they do for the rest of their lives. Building that friendship, that relationship, is far, far bigger than all of us," Daugherty said.
Kendrick Morton, 17, was invited to the program after being put on probation after a fight at Douglass High School.
His behavior ended his school wrestling and track careers, but he kept up with his schoolwork at home and is focusing on becoming a welder.
"I was going downhill a little bit with the fighting, but now I've caught myself, I've got a better future for myself, and I let it all go. I let the fighting go, and kept on with the welding," Morton said.
He also plans to become a security officer as an extra job and loves to work with horses with his family in Wewoka in his spare time.
"I've been around horses all my life. Horses and cows and hogs, so that will always be with me," Morton said.
"I never missed a day of school," he said. "I've got a lot of jobs looking at me because I'm a good worker, I'm on time."
"I like the program because it gives me more skills, and I like the people I'm around because I've got new friends that are on the same track I am," Morton said.