GPD cadets introduced at task force meeting

The GPD Cadet program was on the agenda. From left are Cadets Owen Osborne, Shalashia Wanton, Elizabeth Knight, Ashley DeCurtis, Jason Jennings and Breanna Roberts with GPD Capt. Lonnie Scott, fourth from left, and GPD recruiter Officer Louis Acevedo, sixth from left.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:18 p.m.

The Gainesville Police Department is doing more than talking when it comes to recruiting and retaining a diverse work force.

And to show how they are doing it, GPD introduced students currently enrolled in the Cadet program during the March meeting of the Black on Black Crime Task Force.

The GPD Cadet program offers education and training for students who want to pursue careers in law enforcement, and in some cases, provide full scholarships for students to attend Santa Fe College as part of the program.

Nearly 75 task force members and others attended the meeting held last Wednesday at the Kirby Smith Center. The meeting also included a presentation on the Plum Creek Envision Alachua plan for east Gainesville and eastern Alachua County.

And, several cadets, GPD officers and others were presented with certificates of appreciation from the task force.

Rosa B. Williams, chair of the task force, said some of the certificates were presented to those who have gone out of their way to help the task force.

"Some of them have served meals for us, and some of them have helped us in other ways, mostly off the clock," said Williams, adding that the task force is considering honoring one GPD officer and one civilian each month in the future.

The cadet presentation was led by GPD Capt. Lonnie Scott, commander of the Professional Standards Bureau that oversees fiscal, personnel, training and the reserves/auxiliary departments at GPD.

The minimum requirements for the program include being at least 17 years old and a high school senior eligible to attend Santa Fe College, maintaining a 2.5 grade point average; being a U.S. citizen; having a valid Florida driver's license with a good driving record; and showing a good moral character.

Scott said GPD values diversity and said, "our diversity effort not only focuses on recruitment, but also retention."

According to GPD, the current demographics of sworn employees is as follows: 74.49 percent white, 15.65 percent black, 7.14 percent Hispanic, 0.68 percent Asian and 2.04 percent other.

The diversity among the cadets at the meeting was very apparent. The group included at least three black women, two white women and four black men. Some of the cadets are recent high school and college graduates. One of the women is beginning a second stint in law enforcement after a 20-year career as a police office in Miami. One of the men is Adrian Taylor, a former coach and teacher at Eastside High School, who is embarking on a new career in law enforcement.

Scott said GPD Chief Tony Jones graduated from the cadet program in the 1970s, as well as Darry Lloyd, now the spokesman for the State Attorneys Office, who graduated from the program in the 1990s.

Cadet Jasper Stephenson, an Eastside High School graduate who grew up in the Duval neighborhood, said he wants to become a police officer to "bridge the gap" between the community and police. He also said he wants to serve as a mentor to young men in the community.

In other business, Rose Fagler, spokeswoman for Plum Creek, said the timber company is moving along in developing a plan with community involvement that will chart a course for how the approximately 65,000 acres the company owns in Alachua County will be used for land conservation, economic development and housing needs in the area for the next 50 years.

She said one of the reasons the planning process has involved a lot of community involvement, including the establishment of a task force that includes prominent figures in the black community, "is to get things like Plan East Gainesville off the shelf." Plan East Gainesville addresses the need for economic and other development in east Gainesville.

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