HPD officers awarded for youth gang prevention | News
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF)- Three members of the Huntsville Police Department were honored for their community service at a banquet hosted by the 100 Black Men of America on Saturday.
HPD Investigator Julian Johnson, Officer Carl McDuffie and Officer Dwight Atkinson received the 2012 Mentors of the Year award for their involvement in keeping kids away from gangs.
But the real award for them has nothing to do with the award party or the plaque.
"Our jails are full of youths. If we could keep some of these youths out by intervention and prevention from going to jail by seeing the big picture, that's my reward," Johnson said.
Johnson works the streets while officers McDuffie and Atkinson keep their eyes on schools. Together, the trio goes above and beyond to prevent kids from falling into gangs and the life of crime that follows it.
"It's simply to get our kids to recognize that – and they already know this – but make them recognize and be aware of the dangers that exist when you're involved in joining gangs," McDuffie said.
McDuffie and Atkinson work as school resource officers in Huntsville but are mostly stationed at Butler High School. They said one of the toughest parts of the job is taking kids to jail.
Both officers are reminding kids they don't have to go down that road. They mentor at-risk students from entering a life of crime and travel across the state to present lectures about gang prevention.
Their sheer presence on school campuses is enough to convince kids they're there to help and most of all, to stay.
"With us being in schools, kids get another view of what police officers are," Atkinson said.
20-year-old Daniel Davis remembers the officers when he was a student at Butler High years ago.
"Even though they're police officers, they're also fun to be around," Davis said.
Recollections like that one have kept Johnson dedicated to his job.
"For a child, a year down the road, to see me and say 'hey investigator Jay, remember when you taught that class about gangs? And it really stuck to me. And I was headed down that road until you actually talked to me and it made me realize I didn't know what I was getting into,' that's the real reward," Johnson said.
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