IACP-CONFERENCEOver the past few years, the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) has developed a number of innovative strategies and partnerships to curb youth and community violence, and reduce the overall number of juvenile arrests. The comprehensive effort has been well documented and yielded remarkable results, to include a three-year drop in crime, a reduction in juvenile crime, and a 35% reduction in arrests, particularly those involving minority youth.

For its effort, the MDSPD was the recipient of the prestigious International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Civil Rights Award. The award was presented to Acting Chief Gerald Kitchell and Commander Deanna Fox-Williams during the IACP Annual Conference, which was held in San Diego, California from September 29 – October 3, 2012.

The IACP Civil Rights Award recognizes outstanding law enforcement achievements in protecting civil and human rights. The Civil Rights Committee established this award to promote recognition of the many activities performed by the law enforcement profession across the United States and around the world that serve to promote and protect civil rights. The award provides an opportunity to recognize that law enforcement professionals are among the primary guarantors of civil, human, and constitutional rights in democratic societies.

As law enforcement officers, we are perhaps the most visible sentinel for civil and human rights. The effectiveness of the MDSPD, or any police agency, is reliant on developing trust and confidence within the service population – in our case, the school community. This collaboration between law enforcement and community works best when the people served recognize that their individual rights are valued and defended by the police. To achieve this, we balance the need to promote the safety and well-being of all, while protecting their civil rights as individuals. To that end, the MDSPD is truly a protector of civil rights, not merely an agent of social control.

This noteworthy accomplishment is an affirmation of our chosen path and strategies. A holistic approach enables School Police and District staff to take full advantage of the many resources available – data analysis, case management, and school site personnel, such as administrators, social workers and counselors – to truly invest in our future, and always act in the best interest of our youth.