FBINAA Magazine Q1-2022-final-v4

Continued from "Before the Bullet", on page 26 T he Gulfport Police Department sought to implement a program that targeted the juvenile offender before he or she actually pulled the trigger. Thus, a pilot program called “Before the Bullet” was born. The innovators and architects of the program are Sgt. Jason Ducré and Lt. Clay Fulks . Their idea was simple – identify at-risk juveniles and mentor them before they resorted to committing violence; in other words, influence potential offenders “before the bullet leaves the gun.” Ducré and Fulks outlined their vision. First, they would identify susceptible juveniles and educate them about construc - tive life paths. Next, they would assign a mentor to each juvenile. Among other tasks, the mentors assist the juveniles in obtaining a driver’s license, completing high school or obtaining a GED, enrolling in trade school, enrolling in college, and obtaining employment.

Unfortunately, not everyone participating in the program will have a success story like Eckford’s. One of the initial partici - pants recently dropped out of the program. On Nov. 17, 2021, the program was publicly introduced at an event headlined by Civil Rights Icon Dr. James Meredith . With the public rollout, Ducré and Fulks are now vetting potential mentors from the community and establishing partnerships with community groups and organizations that can offer resources and services to assist these juveniles on the path to success. Police Chief Chris Ryle was quoted recently saying, “I don’t know how many kids this program will save, but if we save at least one, the program will be a success.” If you would like more information about this program, feel free to contact Sergeant Ducré at jducre@gulfport-ms.gov .

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It takes a village to raise a child. For that reason, “Before the Bullet” includes the parents and family of the juveniles selected to participate in the program. Once the participants are selected, meetings are conducted with the participant, his/her family members, and community partners to clearly identify everyone’s role and to set clear, attainable goals. reports and reports from local schools and churches to identify po- tential participants for the program. Three juveniles were enrolled in the pilot program, with another recently added. Elijah Eckford , a 16-year-old male, is one of the participants in the pilot program. At the time of the public rollout of the program, Eckford had been in the program for several weeks. Eckford and his mother, Jen- Ducré and Fulks viewed police

About the Author: Deputy Chief Craig Petersen is a graduate of the 245th session of the FBI National Academy. He currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Police for the Gulfport Police Department located in Gulfport, Miss., where he has served for 24 years. Deputy Chief Petersen cur- rently serves as Third Vice President on the National Board of the FBI National Academy Associates and serves on the Board of Directors of the FBINAA Chari- table Foundation. Deputy Chief Petersen is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (B.S. Business Administration) and Delta State University (M.S. Social Justice and Criminology).

esis Lewis , agreed to be interviewed by WLOX, a local television station. During his interview, Eckford stated, “ I almost went to jail for 10 years. I would have gotten out when I was 26 for a gun charge. Possession of a stolen weapon and grand larceny.” In just a short time, Lewis has seen a world of change in her son. During her interview, she stated, “I see a completely different child (from) three months ago. He was heavily into gang activity, he was very rebellious, very disrespectful. But his demeanor has changed, his attitude has changed. He’s actually on the right track to go ahead and get his high school diploma, and he’s also think- ing about going into the military.” Eckford ended the interview by saying, “Just do right by yourself and your parents, because, the road I was headed down like my mama said, I was either going to be either dead or in jail.” Eckford seems to be on the path to suc- cess thanks to the program. Also interviewed was John Whitfield , CEO of Climb CDC , one of the program’s community partners. Climb CDC offers at-risk youth ages 16-24 educational opportunities and job skills training. Whitfield stated, “Without partners like the Gulfport Police Department, we may not be able to help save lives, as we are doing in this case.”

The FBI National Academy Associates’ Community Engage - ment Committee is committed to partnering with public and private entities in order to identify, develop, and promote best practices in community and law-enforcement relations. The committee is seeking input from our members and their agen- cies. If you have an innovative and/or successful community engagement program to share, please contact the Committee Chair at cpetersen@fbinaa.org.


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