Clarendon cop aims to 'transform boys into better men' in Sandy BayThursday, July 15, 2021
Sandy Bay, Clarendon — Disappointed by the negative impact the involvement of young men in crime is having on the community, Theo McLaughlin has decided to flip the script. He introduced a mentorship programme in Sandy Bay to change the narrative.
McLaughlin, a constable attached to the May Pen police station, said the incident involving a 16-year-old juvenile who attacked a police officer on Highway 2000 and left him hospitalised troubled his spirit.
“Even more disturbing was the involvement of youngsters from the community who featured in the disappearance and subsequent murder of former Four Paths Primary School teacher Nattallie Dawkins. Then I said, 'No man I have to do something about this',” said McLaughlin, who decided to launch a programme dubbed, 'Transforming Boys into Better Men'.
“This initiative rested on my mind for about two months before I decided it was the right time to make the right move and execute the project. Sandy Bay is a unique community and we don't have many reasons to celebrate very often. When the police come to the community it is either in relation to a killing, or shooting, or a demonstration, or some other unpleasant activity that we rather not be known for,” added McLaughlin, who has the support of Superintendent Christopher Phillips, the chief officer in charge of operations in Clarendon,
“It's a crisis out there and I often say something must be wrong with our school curriculum if the minds of our people are not transformed. Year after year, generation after generation and we still counting murder figures,” said Phillips, who will on Friday wrap up his two-year stint as the Clarendon police's head of operations.
According to Phillips, the initiative launched by McLaughlin was in line with the police's mandate.
“When we look at the patterns of crime, and those who are involved, it's usually those within the 15-25 age group that feature mostly in a lot of criminal activities in the parish and so initiatives like these are welcome.
“I would implore others at the community level to look seriously at how we can reach out and engage our youth within the communities. We have a number of communities that are challenged as not all the schools can now accommodate all the students based on the COVID-19 protocols, and so these youngsters in the communities need to be engaged and their energies need to be channelled in a positive and structure way,” declared Phillips as he delivered the main address at the closing out ceremony for the first 15 mentees of the Transforming Boys into Better Men programme last Sunday.
He challenged the young males to realise their potential as they release the negative things in their lives and to rebound from their mistakes to re-invent themselves, resurrect their power and respond positively to the challenges in their surroundings.
The former Garvey Maceo High School teacher said he felt guilty having left the classroom when he did, having had an encounter with a former student of his at the May Pen police lock-up. “Maybe I shouldn't have left at the time that I left because maybe I could have saved him,” he said.
“The programme cannot stop because with all the distractions in the world, the devil is just there waiting for that opportunity to steal them away. So you have to have mentors who will be there with them right through. You should assign them mentors who will check up on them and call them in for meetings from time to time. If you leave them for a moment you will lose them,” said Phillips.
Bishop Horace Gaynor commended the cops who he said were doing a great job to prevent crime in the society. “The truth is we have lost this present generation and the one that is coming up now we need to ensure that we secure them. We have been turning out gunmen, knifemen and murderers, prostitutes and homosexuals over the years. It is time that we turn the tables around.
“We need some more godly men and women in our society who will lead them into the right direction to do the right thing. I am excited as I look at the 15 young men who have been counselled and trained and have been prepared to do that which is right,” said Gaynor as he encouraged them not to be led into a life of crime and violence.
McLaughlin, who coordinated the programme, said he was proud of the 15 young men. “These young men will never be seen in custody, I will never have to carry them to Metcalf Street, I will never have to carry them to the lock-up in May Pen and so today, I feel honoured and proud as the coordinator for this project.
“Sometimes I feel like I want to give up but when I look at my job of transporting prisoners on a daily basis, it's not a pretty job. So I don't want you to ever sign your name on a piece of paper as a prisoner, I don't want you to ever be named among the violence producers in Clarendon, or to be named among unscrupulous juveniles,” said McLaughlin.