Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

2 Officers Really Care about Kids

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

2 Officers Really Care about Kids

Article excerpt

MEET A COUPLE of unsung heroes.

They're not flashy.

They don't make the news.

They aren't holding press conferences.

But the work of St. Louis police officers Ronnie Robinson and Jill Taylor surpasses that of most.

Robinson and Taylor have taken on the task of working with kids whom many would describe as "troubled."

On their own time, the two spend as many as 32 hours a week working with 34 kids ages 12 to 16, trying to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.

Their volunteer work grew out of an assignment the two got a couple of years ago. Through a grant, the two - along with other officers - were assigned to Langston Middle and Stowe Middle schools. The schools are in Blood and Crip territory, and gang recruitment and involvement are no strangers in the neighborhood.

"Teachers were afraid, kids were bringing guns and knives in the schools on a regular basis," Robinson said.

"This was no Officer Friendly program."

Said Taylor: "We checked attendance, we made sure kids were coming to school, and if they weren't we'd issue their parents summonses to appear in court. We'd deal with those who were trying to recruit kids for gangs, and we'd deal with some of the personal problems that some of these kids had."

Over time, the youngsters and the officers developed a rapport. The students would approach the officers, telling them about trouble that was brewing, kids who had brought weapons to school and other problems.

Then the grant ran out.

Other officers were reassigned. But Taylor and Robinson thought the program was so important - as did their supervisors, Maj. Everett E. Page, Capt. David Heath and Lt. Audrey Lee - that the two were assigned to the school, despite the grant's loss.

The two continued working with the kids. "But it became clear to us that they needed someone to work with them after school," Robinson said. He explained that many of the kids didn't have much of a home life. Some had parents who either didn't care about them or were too busy to spend any time with them. Most of the kids had only one parent or lived with guardians or from place to place. …

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