At the height of last summer’s social justice movement a Pew Research poll found 84-percent of Black adults believed Blacks were “generally treated less fairly” than Whites. Black adults also believed they were five times as likely to be “unfairly” stopped by law enforcement. So where do people stand today?
Former pro athlete and retired 22-year law enforcement officer Salvatore Cardella admits the summer of 2020 shed a spotlight on a lot of mistrust. But for the last six-years, he and a group of men who still wear the badge have worked hard to change “bad policing” narratives.
“We want our communities to understand is law enforcement is not out to get. They’re not — they’re here to serve,” said Salvatore Cardella, South Florida Role Models Foundation president and CEO. “We’re hear to redirect negative energy into positive momentum regardless of what community we’re in. Not only does it affect them when they’re in a law enforcement encounter — but it affects them when they go into society as a whole.”
And that’s the reason for the South Florida Role Models Foundation founded by four current and former law enforcement officers working hard to address mistrust in policing by serving as active mentors and role models.
The non-profit offers an Ambassador Academy for youth age seven to 18 with a curriculum that tackles respecting authority, being self-motivated, defensive tactics and situational awareness.
The acronyms outline the nonprofits mantra: S - Stay calm, F - Follow instructions, R - Respect authority, M - Maintain a positive attitude and F - Finish the process, you’re free to go.
”I truly feel if we can take the ego out of law enforcement — take the politics out of law enforcement, our communities can be ran much more smoother,” said Sharmarcus Bryant, South Florida Role Models Foundation co-founder and marketing director. ”Everybody is expecting the law enforcement side to have all this training and all these answers but who is teaching the civilians to get home safe. Who is teaching them sensitivity training as to how to interact with law enforcement, what to say — how to respond to make that interaction go a lot more smoother.”
”They’re going to grow up to be pioneers at some point or they’re going to grow up to be criminals at some point,” added Lavonte Chastine, South Florida Role Models Foundation co-founder and chief administration officer (CAO). “It doesn’t discriminate.”
At the same time, the foundation also tackles etiquette, financial literacy, vehicle maintenance and community service among other things productive soon-to-be men need.
The academy also includes one-on-one mentorship opportunities with industry leaders and sponsors like KAST Construction.
”Diversity does matter,” Bryant said.
And the role models are willing to take their curriculum on the road to area South Florida schools. They also want to speak with members of the Florida Legislature about other initiatives in the works. To learn more about their mission visit https://southfloridarolemodelfoundation.com/.