A late note on some holiday cheer.
At the 70th Precinct holiday party, just before Christmas, the Community Council invites children from a local homeless shelter to the party where I do a magic show and Santa gives out what might be the only presents these kids will get.
The turnout was a record for my 14 years. I would guess about 200 kids and family members.
The 70th Community Affairs team who manages the present dispensing and food would have been overwhelmed if not for the help of the new 70th Precinct Explorers Team. The Explorers are a group of teens that volunteer to do various projects with the Community Affairs Officers. Over the years the program has had its ups and downs. But this crop of young volunteers was top notch. It was a larger and more committed group than I have seen in a long time.
This has to be a reflection of the officer in charge of the Explorers program. I had to seek out Officer Slade to congratulate him. Clearly the smiles and positivity come through in these photos. It is hard to imagine that a year or two ago, several of them were considered “at risk.” It’s Officer Slade’s job to scope out kids who “shouldn’t be running with that crowd” and reach out to them. He invites them to participate in his after school projects. (The top photo was the present wrapping crew.)
As they helped dole out presents to the masses, I got to hear some of their personal stories. Each had been recruited by Youth Officer Slade. If they sign on, he engages them in various projects and keeps an eye on their grades. He drops in at school to make sure they are going, and tries to help with homework after school (though like the rest of us old people, since most will get honors this semester, he can no longer help with the math).
On the right in this photo is Officer Slade, who somehow has made being a cop cool to the them. On the left is one of his charges Chris, who was arrested for something petty last year. He was cornered by Slade who, as he says, “had a hard talk about where I saw myself in four years.” He flat out gave Slade credit for changing his program, and said he was sure Slade was spending a lot of money from his own pocket on their projects.
While no one expects the NYPD to be a social service, it seemed to me Officer Slade is a preemptive strike against crime in our area. Teachers will probably relate to spending their own money on their programs and how wrong it is. I was thinking some of our public servants might take an interest in this cause. Can you hear me Councilmembers?
I asked Chris if, after spending time with the police, he could see himself being one.
“No,” he said. “I still have a problem with authority, I don’t take orders well. I am going to be a sergeant.”