The Prince George’s County Police Department found itself in the spotlight Monday, when it accepted a national award for community involvement.
The department’s Police Athletic League (PAL), established in 2016 for at-risk youths, was given the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s first Hero Award during a ceremony at the museum in Northwest.
“The PAL program exemplifies what it means for law enforcement to be a part of the community,” Acting Museum Executive Director Chad Fulgham said at the ceremony. “PAL provides a way for youth to see law enforcement as friends, as sounding boards and as mentors.”
In partnership with the Maglite flashlight company, the memorial fund created the Hero Award to recognize a few heroes each year, said Maglite spokesman Lou Desmond.
“The Law Enforcement Hero Award seeks to honor heroic actions of all kinds and in this case, the heroic actions of the Prince George’s County Police Department,” Mr. Desmond said. “That department has made serving the youth in their community part of its core mission in an extraordinary way.”
As part of PAL, police department personnel mentor young people to instill in them leadership, sportsmanship and teamwork, as well as encourage their participation in activities such as martial arts, baseball and basketball. Nearly 600 at-risk students in elementary through high school participate in PAL’s 12 programs, said Sgt. Kwesi Dadzie, officer in charge of the overall program.
“We have leadership camps, baseball camps, holiday camps and a lot of the same kids will participate,” Sgt. Dadzie said. “And the numbers just keep growing.”
Youth outreach opportunities including art therapy, sport camps and programs in the elementary and high schools are included in the PAL program, he said.
Police Chief Henry P. Stawinski on Monday accepted the award — a working flashlight and stand made by Maglite — on behalf of the department and its program.
“We have a comprehensive program that involves officers engaging with young people around sports, around how you conduct yourself, how you prepare for the future, thoughtful engagement on every level and we are very proud of that,” Chief Stawinski said.
The chief credited the falling crime numbers to outreach programs such as PAL, which also helps students find after-school and summer activities, as well as providing assistance for college credits.
“By strengthening these ties [between police and the community] we believe that we make safer and more productive communities for everyone,” Mr. Fulgham said.
Maglite said it will make a donation to the memorial fund with each Hero Award that is awarded.