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Perception is reality, and media coverage has skewed our perception. Our TVs assault us with images of police injustice. Decent people are outraged. Our minds are beaten black and blue. Seeing a blue knee relentlessly squeezing the life from a black man’s neck in Minnesota. A sleeping brown lady shot in her bed during a misguided blue raid in Kentucky. A man lies dying without help on an American street; our trust in law enforcement drains away as red fluid drains out his life. His crime: driving while black.
This picture is painted with broad crimson brush strokes across the canvas of our minds. Our thinking is colored by this scarlet palette.
Add a personal experience like an unwarranted traffic stop or such which can confirm the misguided opinion that cops are bad guys. Is this the reality of Palm Beach County? You need to know that our local police are precisely the opposite.
I know several of our chiefs and I stake my reputation on their deeply sincere commitment to building a trusting and cooperative relationship with every resident they serve. The chiefs know that justice is meaningless unless it’s equal for all.
Police departments have a chain of command that runs from top to bottom throughout their organizations. The chiefs establish the culture of their department. They set the policies, create community initiatives, and surveil the responsibilities, actions, and accountability of their officers.
Our chiefs are fully committed to protect and serve all their constituents, especially those living in underserved neighborhoods within their precincts. I know personally that they literally stay up nights thinking of ways to build meaningful relationships and they spend a good part of their days in action.
This isn’t a side issue for them. Each holds it as a central responsibility of their job. Every municipality has its own unique challenges and opportunities, but there is a common thread of justice woven through the fabric of our county’s blue crew. One exemplar of these dedicated public servants is Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro Sims.
If you ordered the ideal leader from central casting, Sims would be it. He is a child of Palm Beach County. He was born in Boynton Beach to parents who both worked actively to better their community. They passed the family torch of service down to their son.
Sims believes that both sides must be willing to come together and stay at it no matter what.
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“Relationship is a two-way street,” he says. “We are working to earn the trust and full welcome which will help us fully provide equal justice to everyone. Police and residents must be unified to face our common problems and opportunities together.”
The makeup of the Delray Beach Police Department reflects the diversity of the community. Chief Sims seeks ways for his people to interact and form personal relationships with residents. One creative example is the Delray Beach Police Department Ice Cream Truck. His officers also interact in schools to help students perform their best.
Delray Beach is also on the cutting edge of helpful technology. Traffic stops are required to use body cameras, which the department uses to ferret out abuses. The videos encourage best behavior by both police and residents.
COVID-19 has been a problem but that hasn’t stopped Sims. Nothing will deter him and his fellow chiefs from Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, and others to achieve oneness with their communities.
Steve West is a social justice advocate and entrepreneur living in Delray Beach.