Orlando Police Department dedicates 14 officers to youth outreach

'Communication is No. 1,' youth program coordinator says

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando Police Officer Joseph Lundy has been doing a lot of listening lately as the coordinator of the police department’s new youth outreach program.

He talked with protesters, many of them young people, when they demonstrated in front of the Orlando Police Department recently after the death of George Floyd, a black man killed during an encounter with Minneapolis police officers.

“What I told them is that it takes buy-in on both sides,” Lundy said. “Both sides have to be willing to come to the table and listen to each other.”

Lundy also regularly listens to his 14 youth outreach liaison officers, the patrol officers who volunteered for the new OPD program.

The officers promised to get to know the youth in the communities they serve in order to help those youth with problems, fears, and challenges.

"We identify young people who would like to have opportunities, who would like to be successful, and we come together and create a plan where they can go and do things that they dream to do," Lundy said.

Lundy said he's currently arranging a meeting for a 15-year-old with the Fire Academy and the Fire Department. The boy dreams of becoming a paramedic. Lundy met him when he got into trouble.

"They just may have made a mistake which we all have made mistakes," Lundy said. "And I help them get past that mistake and make better choices and learn from those mistakes."

Last week, Lundy and the 14 liaison officers attended a graduation ceremony for Orlando high school seniors hosted by the “Boys to Men” Mentoring Group. Lundy presented the grads with certificates from Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon.

Boys to Men helped the young men get through school and graduate.

Lundy said OPD began youth mentoring in 2009, but OPD’s latest version of youth outreach was introduced on May 7, weeks before the death of George Floyd. Still, Lundy said the new program has helped the police department connect with the community at a crucial time.

He said he's hearing the concern from the community.

"What's going on in the nation and how can we build a better relationship," Lundy said.

And he's addressing it.

Lundy said the conversation with a young lady demonstrating in front of the police department went well.

“We had contact where a young lady was concerned about the climate that the country is in when it comes to law enforcement,” Lundy said. “She’s going to school for criminal justice. What we provided her was information on how we can do things better. And that’s communication. Communication is No. 1.”

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