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DPD hosts Youth Leadership Academy

Sgt. Richard Bryant, School Resource Officer Tyrrenza Washington, Sgt. Monica Oliver and Chief Tommie Reese pictured with the participants of this summer’s second session of the 2016 Demopolis Police Youth Leadership Academy.

Sgt. Richard Bryant, School Resource Officer Tyrrenza Washington, Sgt. Monica Oliver and Chief Tommie Reese pictured with the participants of this summer’s second session of the 2016 Demopolis Police Youth Leadership Academy.

For the second year, the Demopolis Police Department held its Demopolis Police Youth Leadership Academy at the DPD station in downtown with the goal of teaching the youth of the area valuable life lessons and giving them constructive activities while away from school.
“Very important. We’re trying to bridge the gap with kids and give them some opportunities to do something different in the summertime besides being at home and not doing anything,” said DPD Chief Tommie Reese on the importance of the program. “Although the program is a one-week program, the hope is that the experience that they get they’ll be able to carry it with them for a lifetime.
This was the second year of program started in 2015 by Reese. The DPD ran two sessions of the program last year, just as they did this year.
Age range was 11-15 for the academy. Reese mentioned that he hopes to expand the age range in the future, but it depends on resources to fund it. Likewise, he will look at possibly expanding sessions to two weeks or adding another session.
Reese noted that there’s not much to do during the summer, and so he knows for at least a week a group of children won’t be in trouble. In addition, the camp provides valuable life skills as well as meeting current inmates who talk to the students about how they got to jail and how to avoid being in the same position.
“Some of the kids that have come through here have said, ‘This has changed my life.’ The week experience around officers and seeing the different things about leadership, motivation, bullying and peer pressure I think they’ll be able to go forth and handle that,” said Reese.
Academy attendees also got to go a court setting and go fishing, which both events were a first time activity for many of the students.
“Since I’ve been here as chief, it’s my premise to have a great community,” Reese said. “You can ride in the car all day long, but if you’re not doing programs to help the community it’s null and void.”
With the national narrative skewing so negative about the relationship between law enforcement and the public, the DPD recognizes that establishing a connection is imperative for the future.
“When I was growing up, my momma always told me if you get lost or need help to find a police officer on the street,” Reese said. “Now parents or relatives will see me walk in Walmart and say, “The police officer is going to get you if you act bad. So that child grows up with fear initially of police officers. I want these kids to understand that we’re there to help them with life.”
Graduation from the Youth Leadership Academy will be July 8 at Rooster Hall starting at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.
“It’s always said our children are our future, but I look at that like we are our children’s future. I want to know that when my time is up, that I did the best I could for somebody,” Reese said.