I am a retired Escondido Police lieutenant and currently I oversee the Escondido Police Athletic League (PAL) I have also taught Criminal Justice at Orange Glen High School and Escondido Charter High School. The Escondido Police Athletic League provides athletic and educational opportunities for youth in the community.
I work with children of all races, but due to the demographics of Escondido, most children I work with are Hispanic. To say 2020 was a difficult year is an understatement. The COVID pandemic and calls for social justice have made this a year for the history books. The state lockdowns and restrictions limited our actions in 2020, and PAL responded as well as we were allowed. As we go into 2021, here is my view on how we need to move forward:
Children need to get back into school and sports programs as soon as possible. Students are falling way behind in their studies and the social isolation is devastating to children. The children most affected by this are those in low-income families and most of them are people of color. Families with means can afford tutors and private sports clubs where the children can travel to states that are still allowing competitive sports leagues. I know the COVID pandemic is real and can be fatal in some cases, but in our great country I know there is a way to open our schools safely. The scientific experts have said children can attend school safely. This needs to be done.
The next subject I am going to touch on is always sensitive to many. Before I start, I am going to give a brief description of myself before someone makes the mistake of thinking I only have these views because I am privileged. I am a Black male, and in the past there have been times in my life where I was very poor. I am 62 years old and I grew up in New York. I visited the South when I was a child and spent time there during my teen years when I served in the United States Marine Corps. I have seen and experienced racism during my lifetime. Do I believe there is still racism in this country? Yes. Do I believe most people in this country are racist? No. Do I believe systemic racism and oppression kept me from succeeding? No, I went to work at a predominately white police department and climbed the ranks. Everyone treated me with respect, and no one tried to block my path to success.
I mentor a lot of children and I do not talk about systemic racism or oppression. When children are constantly taught they are oppressed or that a system is rigged for their failure, they believe it and sometimes they give up hope. I teach children they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. I teach them to dream big and work hard. I have had many success stories, but I will just share one. I had a young Hispanic girl tell me she wanted to attend UCLA but was told she would never get there. Someone from her own race told her that. I told her the person did not know what they were talking about. My advice was to work hard in school and start creating a path to go to UCLA. Approximately 5 years ago she graduated from UCLA.
One of the main goals with PAL is to improve relationships between the police and the community. Some officers across the country have committed some horrible and illegal acts, but most officers are honorable, and Law Enforcement is an honorable and worthy occupation. I cannot speak for every law enforcement agency in the country because I know little about their training. I can speak for the Escondido Police Department. While no agency is perfect, the Escondido Police Department does an outstanding job serving the community. Sometimes I hear demands to drastically cut their funding and put more funding into schools and social programs. First off, the City does not fund schools or social programs. Like it or not, society needs police officers and police work is expensive due to personnel, equipment, and mandatory training.
I would love to see more people of color on all police forces. Unfortunately, in today’s society, some of the biggest voices have vilified the profession. Because of the vilification, it is hard to recruit people of color to the profession. One of our main goals for PAL in 2021 is to keep the officers involved with young children. Hopefully, the positive interactions will lead them in the right direction and maybe motivate a couple of them to join our ranks when they come of age.
The number one goal of PAL is to teach every child no matter what their race or socioeconomic status, he or she can succeed with hard work and determination. If they need help either me or one of my volunteers will help them with their blueprint to success. PAL is ready to step into 2021 and beyond.
If you’d like to contribute, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.