A New Castle Police youth program, another program that helps offenders find work, and overall good police-community interactions were reasons the Lawrence County’s law enforcement team was recognized on Wednesday.
Acting U.S. attorney Stephen R. Kaufman and his staff traveled to New Castle from Pittsburgh to receive the awards from New Castle Police Officer Brandi Stewart, City Police Commissioner Bobby Salem, Mayor Chris Frye, and Lawrence County Attorney Joshua Lamancusa shower – all in the spirit of National Police Week.
The special ceremony at the Lawrence County Courthouse, organized by the US Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice, recognized the efforts of local law enforcement agencies to work together in their communities.
“I think we all know that with current events, it is not an easy time to become a cop in America,” said Kaufman. “In addition, it is always difficult to be a police officer. Yet every day in Pennsylvania and New Castle, men and women in blue don their uniforms to protect and serve our communities. “
They work long shifts and you never know what’s going to happen, he said, noting that they are often in unpredictable and dangerous circumstances.
“We need good officers more than ever,” said Kaufman.
He attributed Stewart’s work as an officer and the New Castle Police Leading Active Youth (PLAY) program, a partnership with the New Castle YMCA and the county’s youth probation department. The program is designed to build trust and understanding between young people and police officers, Kaufman said, adding, “Nothing could be more important.”
The program is based on the idea that if young people are reached early enough, they can develop strong positive attitudes towards police officers and the law, he said.
“Officer’s Stewart’s work through the PLAY program has made a huge difference in the quality of life for New Castle residents,” said Kaufman. “This type of face-to-face interaction creates mutual trust, which is vital to solving neighborhood problems and reducing crime.”
Stewart was featured on their Facebook page by the New Castle Police as the first African American female police officer for the city of New Castle. She was hired as a part-time officer in 2017 and promoted to full-time officer in 2018. She works on the main team of the Case Assistance Department and acts as quartermaster and clerk for the Special Response Team. Her goal is to work as a detective in the crime department. Outside of her duties, she volunteers for various police department events and charitable projects, including the PLAY (Police Leading Active Youth) program.
“I didn’t know anything about it, I just found out today,” said a surprised Stewart of her appreciation. “I am totally overwhelmed.
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“I really enjoy working with the community,” she said.
Salem said he was very fortunate to have a good working relationship with Lamancusa and Frye as mayors.
“We share a goal through public safety, crime reduction, and public service, and that goal has always been to improve the city and the community we live in,” he said. “Working with these two people has been an honor for me and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Frye stated that he had the privilege of working alongside Salem, Lamancusa and the police.
“I hear what their strategies are to protect our community,” said Frye. “I’m thrilled to know that you are leading the charge of making New Castle a better and safer place to live, and that goes for the whole of Lawrence County as well.”
Kaufman commended Lamancusa for pioneering the Jail to Jobs program, which resulted from a convicted criminal’s refusal to work in 28 different locations based on a 10-year previous conviction.
As part of the program, the prosecution works with local employers to help past nonviolent offenders find employment, support their families and reduce relapses.
“The idea of Jail to Jobs is to give opportunities to people who have made mistakes in their past,” commented Lamancusa. He credited Gary Filippone, his associate who directs the program, for its continued success in finding dozens of jobs for past offenders.
Lamancusa said he believed the program “will be the legacy of my tenure”.