Beyond the Badge: South Bend Police help youth box it out for a better life

Beyond the Badge: South Bend Police help youth box it out for a better life

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Violence in the City of South Bend has plagued the community for years. According to the city’s crime dashboard, there were 19 fatal shootings in 2021, down from the 5-year record high of 23 in 2020.

“The earlier we reach the kids, the better,” South Bend Police Department Captain Dave Herron said.

It’s an ongoing problem South Bend Police are trying to address. If you’ll remember, just last week SBPD launched a new pilot program called Victory over Violence to help fight gun violence in the community.

SBPD is also doing a lot behind the scenes to encourage positive outlets for young people.

This week on Beyond the Badge, we’re taking Michiana inside their Police Athletic League known as ‘PAL’ where officers mentor kids and inspire them to make good choices.

Monday through Wednesday, kids and teens box it out for a better life at The Beacon in South Bend.

“The goal of the program is to introduce the kids to the police, police officers, so they can participate with the police, learn from the police officers, and the police officers can learn from them,” Captain Herron said. We teach the kids self-competence, competence, conflict resolution, how to respect themselves and others.”

SBPD Captain Dave Herron has been involved in the program for over 20 years.

“It started in the early 90s with former Chief Boykins,” he said. “It started with a bucket of balls and about 10 kids…less than 10 kids and now we average about 800 to 1,000 a year.”

The program’s designed for kids around seven, all the way up to adults.

Herron said it’s important to reach kids at a young age and help them connect with an officer in uniform they can trust.

“During this time and age, most kids don’t like the police,” he said. “Most kids that come here don’t like the police, but they come and interact – learning how to box, setting goals, teaching them how to manage their anger. We’re not just involved, we’re invested.”

“It's amazing. Captain Herron has been a major part of my grandson’s success,” Grandparent Cheryl Carrell said.

PAL is all about giving kids a positive outlet.

“When I first came here, I thought, ‘this is such a waste of time’…I didn’t feel like I wanted to do it,” 6th grader Adisen Maxwell said. “I was so lazy all the time and now that I’m not, I like working out.”

It’s setting them up for success in and out of the classroom with the help of tutors.

“He started off with, I think, two missing grades,” Carrell explained. “D’s and C’s. He just got his report card the other day he has three A's and one B. It’s because of this program.”

“When I come here every day, I first, I do my homework and that’s how I get all my A’s because they teach me a lot and I learned all from my mistakes that I’ve done and it’s very helpful,” Maxwell said. “I’m glad that they get to tutor me.”

“It’s given him more confidence in what he's doing,” Carrell said. “His attitude, his demeanor, everything is just amazing.”

“It's my way of giving back to the community,” Herron said. “It’s a way the officers can give back to the community. To see kids come here at the age of seven and progress with their life to adulthood and see them be successful… graduate from high school, graduated college. It's a wonderful thing to see and to be a part of.”

“He's a really good mentor for the kids giving them a positive outlet, except, you know, instead of, you know, with all the violence that we're having, right now in South Bend, which we don't know why it's happening,” Carrell said. “I'm just glad that he has a place to go.”

“We need more programs like this,” Herron said. “Programs like this teaches kids self-respect, if they don't know how to respect themselves, then they're not going to respect others.”

Herron said it means the world to him to see kids come and change their minds and want to wear the badge, like them.

“Actually, he wants to be a police officer now,” Carrell said.

“I love to save people and I just want to put, I don’t want no violence in my city no more,” Maxwell explained.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Herron said. “We have kids that come through this program that may not have made it if it wasn't for the program. Even though most people nowadays have that perception that police officers are bad, the South Bend Police Department, we're getting it done. We're getting it done for our community. We're getting it done for our youth and we want to keep moving and have this South Team South Bend type atmosphere and do the best for our community to reduce gun violence and also help us recruit good citizens and good officers.”

If you’re interested in getting your child signed up for the program, it’s completely free. You’re welcome to just show up or you can register ahead of time here.

Parents do need to come with kids to get signed up.

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