As he was sworn in as president of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, patrolman Shafiq Abdussabur floated plans to give fellow cops a new title: “tutor.”
Abdussabur made his remarks after he placed his hand on the Koran and was sworn in before 40 friends, family members, fellow officers, and officials including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
The ceremony took place Saturday afternoon in a private room at the Greek Olive restaurant on Sargent Drive. It was hosted by the New Haven Guardians, a fraternal organization of Elm City African-American officers that Abdussabur helped to found in 2005.
That organization will greatly expand the number of officers working as tutors to kids in the neighborhood this summer, Abdussabur said.
“He’s the face of community policing,” city street outreach worker Doug Bethea said at the swearing-in. “He’s the most outstanding officer on the force, the one troubled kids trust the most.”
In taking on (NABLEO)‘s pressure-cooker presidency, Abdussabur is stepping onto a regional and national stage for the first time. It is the latest turn in a 45-year journey that has included formal art training, entrepreneurial adventures both profit and non-profit, student activism, and attending Black Panther rallies on the Green as a kid with his mom. Abdussabur also writes books (the most recent: Driving While Black: The Black Man’s Guide to Law Enforcement).
Click here for a thumbnail biography of Abdussabur when he was selected as the Independent’s Man of the Year in 2006. And click here for a challenge he sent to the black community at a recent anti-violence forum.
“Today is not about me,” Abdussabur said in his remarks at Saturday’s event. “It’s to recognize a crisis. We do not have celebration time.”
One Police Mentor = Five Non-Police Mentors
Abdussabur was recruited to become a cop by New Haven Police Chief Nick Pastore in the inaugural days of community policing in the 1990s. By the middle of the next decade, community policing had fallen out of favor.
As bullets flew and younger people were dying in New Haven, Abdussabur was instrumental in 2007 in bringing the Street Outreach Workers model from Providence to New Haven. He was the new outreach team’s liaison to the police department for its first years.
Along the way Abdussabur noticed that younger and younger kids were using guns to settle disputes. To address that problem he founded CTRIBAT, a volunteer cop-run program that takes kids on outdoor adventures, teaches life skills, and shows them the perils of gun culture. He said research shows that for troubled kids the core players in the best mentoring programs are police officers. In terms of effectiveness, one police officer mentor is worth five non-officer mentors, he said.
Using the bully pulpit and resources of NABLEO, Abdussabur said, he wants to expand the current 15 kids being tutored by New Haven’s Guardians to approximately 50 by this summer.
Kids from age 5 to 21 will be eligible to have an officer as a tutor. “I guarantee you if a kid’s in a movie eating popcorn with an officer, that kid isn’t going to do something bad,” he said.
“We know what works [in New Haven]. We’re going to have the best mentoring program in the entire country of police mentoring kids.”
NABLEO has 18 chapters, like the New Haven Guardians. They are mostly in the northeast and number approximately 12,000 individual members. The group was established in 2002, when it formally broke away from the National Black Police Association over philosophical difference including insufficient emphasis on community policing, according to NABLEO’s Charles P. Wilson.
Wilson, who is stepping down after two two-year terms as president, said he personally recruited Abdusabbur. He cited his intelligence, energy, and personal qualities.
The presidency is a demanding all-volunteer job that must be done on an officer’s off-time, Wilson noted. Wilson said each week during his two terms as president he spent as many hours on NABLEO business as on his post as a lieutenant with the Rhode Island College police department.
“I’m already burning my sick time and vacation time,” said Abdussabur.
Taking on the new challenge came as no surprise to Abdussabur’s grandparents, Almena and Fred Fulcher. They were first among equals in the audience of Abdussabur’s admirers.
“I raised him. I brought him home from the hospital. He’s intelligent and very very good to people. I knew he was going to come this far,” said Almena Fulcher (who’s pictured at the top of the story).
The other NABLEO officers sworn in Saturday included Hubert Smith, Litoria Williams, and Frances Dubose-Watson.