Archives for November 23, 2010

An Interview with Bernard Melekian, Director, US Department of Justice-Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

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This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/06/an-interview-with-bernard-melekian-director-us-department-of-justice-office-of-community-oriented-policing-services/

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  We have a real treat for us to today, ladies and gentlemen. Bernard Melekian, he is the director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as the COPS office, www.cops.usdoj.gov to talk about what’s happening with the COPS office and where the COPS office is going.  Before we get into the interview with Director Melekian, I want to thank everybody once again for your calls, for your letters, for your emails.  If you want to comment in any way, shape, or form in terms of what it is that we do here in D.C. Public Safety, please feel free as you already are doing.  You can follow us via Twitter that is twitter.com/lensipes, L-e-n S-i-p-e-s.  If you want to get in touch with me directly via email, it’s Leonard, leonard.sipes@csosaid.gov.  Or you can simply go in and comment in the comment area, which most of you do, which is media.csosa.gov.  And simply comment in the comment boxes.  CSOSA stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a parole — a federal parole and probation agency here in downtown Washington, D.C.  And again, it’s my pleasure to re-introduce Bernard Melekian.  He is the executive Director, Director of U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as COPS, a gentleman with 37 years of law enforcement experience and 25 years within the Coast Guard Reserve.  Again, Bernard, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Bernard Melekian:  Thank you, Leonard, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  You know, 37 years in law enforcement, that’s enough to tell 10 billion stories.

Bernard Melekian:  At least, at least.  It’s been a fascinating career.  I feel–I do feel very blessed to have gotten to spend my adult life doing something I love doing.  And I’ve gotten to continue that here in Washington. 

Len Sipes:  You know, it is a profession.  It is a calling.  For those of us who have been in law enforcement, those of who have been in the criminal justice system, we’re passionate about what it is we do, because we see the direct benefits to so many citizens.   

Bernard Melekian:  You know, that’s absolutely true.  I think and I think it was doubly interesting is that very often the people that you help when you’re a law enforcement officer don’t see it or aren’t aware of it.  The–I’ve always teased my fire department colleagues about the fact that everyone loves them even–because they’re contribution is so tangible. 

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh. 

Bernard Melekian:  But what happens with law enforcement is very often the positive benefit is long-term or it’s unseen.  And I’ve often thought that police officers labor in an unfortunate obscurity. 

Len Sipes:  The first time I was involved with a terrible automobile accident.  And I was there by myself.  And I literally saved the individual’s life.  About a week later, his parents came in, it was a young man involved in an automobile accident.  And they were hugging me.  And they were crying.  And you know, I–from that, I’m saying, my heavens, what other profession do you have where you can make such a direct contribution to the welfare of others?  I mean, I understand that law enforcement has its own stereotypes.  Law enforcement carries its own baggage.  But for those of us who are privileged to have served in law enforcement capacities, you know, how many people come up to you in your lifetime hugging you and crying because you’ve saved the life of their child? 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, not too often. And I think your experience was probably unique or–although I suspect if I was on the questioning end of this interview, I would imagine that more people had complained to you than that family that hugged you and thanked you for your service. I think all–very often that part of what happens is that police officers intervene in people’s lives usually under negative circumstances.  Usually they’re either, you know, stopping you for apparently no reason, or a reason that may not be clear, or you’re being issued a citation that you clearly don’t deserve, or you’re–you’ve been the victim of a crime.  And the officer’s there to take a report.  But there’s not a sense that the officer can do anything tangible.  I think that–I think that one of the things that police work has done, and needs to do a better job of, is marketing itself and marketing what it is that men and women do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across this country in events large and small to make their community safer. 

Len Sipes:  And that’s the heart and soul of COPS, is it not?  The concept of connecting with the community, the idea of making sure that partners are involved, making sure that the community is involved and making sure that everybody is connected, everybody is interdependent, and the community is not out there on their own.  The law enforcement agency’s not out there on their own.  They’re interconnected.  They’re talking.  They’re solving problems together.  That’s the heart and soul of the COPS concept, is it not? 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.  And I’ve been in this business long enough, 37 years as you mentioned, to have come up under what was called the professional model of policing, which was that–which was an arm’s length sort of just the facts Jack Webb “Dragnet” model, which actually was very deliberately focused on not connecting with the community, because the focus really was to deal with how to make sure that professionalism implied absolute objectivity.  It became apparent as the years went forward, and I came in this business in 1973, became apparent as the years went forward that that system wasn’t working.  And there’s a whole long laundry list, really, of reasons why it didn’t work.  But it became clear that it–we needed to connect with the community in a way that we did not, to use or word, partnerships, I’ve always believed that community policing at the end of the day was really nothing more than building relationships and solving problems.  And it’s something the police officers do quite well.  I would argue and have argued that for most of the agencies in this country, particularly rural agencies, and small towns, that they do community policing by default and always have, and probably just didn’t call it that. 

Len Sipes:  Well that’s been my point for years, Bernard.  It is, you know, the interesting part about it is that we have been doing community policing for years.  So there’s an awful lot of police officers out there, who have spent time with community organizations, spent time with gangs in the street, spent time walking, talking.  And from that, developing good leads as to who was doing the bad stuff.  But there has to be a trust relationship between–it all comes down–it doesn’t come down to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Bernard Melekian:  No. 

Len Sipes:  It doesn’t come down to the chief of police.  It comes down to that individual police officer, whoever he or she may be, willing to interact with the community on a very personal level, not out of an officer friendly public relations approach.  We’re doing this because it works, correct?  We’re doing this because it solves crimes.  We’re doing this because it solves problems.  So that’s the heart and soul of the COPS office, correct? 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.  And I think there’s this picture, this stereotype of what community policing is, that it’s–we all go to the–the officers go to the neighborhood barbeque, and everyone holds hands and sings kum ba ya. 

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  But the reality is, and that may be a piece of it, but the reality is, for example that I guarantee you that if I look at a department that has a high crime solvability rate, particularly crimes of violence, I guarantee you that they have a solid community policing program going on because those detectives and those line officers have relationships in the community, have relationships with people who have information.  And not only have the information, but trust the officers and trust the department enough to give that information up. 

Len Sipes:  We live in a CSI world.  Too many people watch all these programs at night.  My wife–I drive her crazy because I cannot watch them in any way, shape or form because their reality, the television realty is so distant from the reality on the street.  And I think what you just said, it’s correct.  The vast majority of what is accomplished is accomplished not through neutron activation analysis, not through fingerprints, not through DNA, not through CSI investigators.  The vast majority of crimes are solved because that police officer has good, solid connections with that community.  That detective has good solid connections with the community.  Would you agree with that or disagree? 

Bernard Melekian:  I would agree with a caveat.  I absolutely agree that the relationships are critical.  And I have believed that and attempted to practice that throughout my career.  I don’t know whether it’s unfortunate or not, but the–certainly the state of the evidence required today to bring a case to trial, and to obtain a conviction has been–that bar has been raised significantly.  And in some ways, programs like CSI have contributed to that because the people who serve on juries have watched those programs as well.  

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  And they have an expectation of what it is that they’re going to see-

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  –when they get to the courtroom.  And if they don’t see it, or they don’t see some version of it, most prosecutors will tell you that the risk of an acquittal starts to climb. 

Len Sipes:  Are the juries stuck with us.  We’re just regular John Doe and Jane Doe shmucks.  We’re not the very pretty, very good looking, very well educated, very well funded–

Bernard Melekian:  Very articulate and–

Len Sipes:  Very articulate, very glib–did I say young and extremely well dressed detective, who solves–

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes: –crimes within a half an hour.  That’s television. 

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes:  The juries are stuck with you and I.  And we’re just regular–

Bernard Melekian:  And their computers, I’ve noticed, are never down. 

Len Sipes:  Yes, and they always have everything.  I mean they roll up with more equipment than I’ve seen in a lifetime.  Now the COPS office does what?  I mean, let’s set that up.  I mean you guys basically set the standard for the country in terms of what community policing is.  And we go from there please? 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, I think it’s important to–as we have this discussion, to look quickly at the history of the COPS office.  And the COPS office came into existence in 1994.  It was–its purpose was to advance community policing, a concept that had been born out of the broken windows theory and about a recognition, particularly in the nation’s urban centers that relationships with the police and the community, particularly the minority community was not what it should be, and to try to make some strides in that.
The–under President Clinton and under then Senator Biden, the office was brought into existence.  And its purpose was to advance community policing.
At the same time, because if you recall in the ’90’s, the crime rate was so significant, there was also a pledge that that office would put 100,000 additional officers on the streets of America– 

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  –for the purpose of making America’s community safer. 

Len Sipes:  Which you essentially did, the office did. 

Bernard Melekian:  And the office did do that.  Unfortunately, or the fortunate part was that it worked.  Crime did go down.  And I happen to–and while there’s a great deal of sort of back and forth about why crime went down in the 90’s, I am a very big adherent of the concept that cops count.  Cops do make a difference.  And that those 100,000 cops were in large measure responsible for that crime reduction, not the only reason, but certainly one of. 

Len Sipes:  Okay. 

Bernard Melekian:  However, the–I think then the view of the COPS office shifted from a focus on community policing, to a focus on hiring.  And–

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian: –I think most of America’s law enforcement, sheriffs and detectives and political leaders have come to see it as sort of what I only half jokingly call the federal ATM machine.  And if you can figure out what the–

Len Sipes:  I’m sorry.  That’s a great line. 

Bernard Melekian:  If you can figure out the PIN number, you can get some police officers out of it.  And that was only part of the case.  And I think sort of fast forwarding to 2009, where–and I have to tell you in 37 years, I have never seen, I’ve seen the economy rise and fall.  I’ve seen problems as we all have.  I have never seen the devastation to local law enforcement that this economic collapse brought about. 

Len Sipes:  Totally agreed.  It is happening throughout the country. 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely. 

Len Sipes:  I just read in the Chicago papers about 450 state troopers in Illinois being laid off.  Every day, because I–

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes: –subscribe to three newspaper services, every–and Google alerts.  And every day, all that–all those articles from throughout the country are pushed towards me.  And I would say at least 20 percent to 30 percent of them deal with budget cuts.  And what’s happening in the criminal justice system throughout the country is literally devastating. 

Bernard Melekian:  Yeah.  The irony is that we as a profession, we as a society, I think, had started to make some great strides, and were really positioning ourselves over the next 10 to 20 years to do something very strategic.  And instead, most chiefs and sheriffs and I’m sure court administrators and district attorneys and public defenders, no one came in this business to do less.  Everybody came into the criminal justice system to do more, to make it better, to make society better, whatever your–whatever approach–wherever you come from on that.
And instead, they’re faced with this need to cut back.  Well, in 2009, in addition to the normal COPS hiring money, the Recovery Act funds were added to that.  And so, the COPS office gave out just over a billion dollars in hiring grants. 

Len Sipes:  That’s a lot of money. 

Bernard Melekian:  In fiscal year 2009.  It is a lot of money, but the downside was, or the other side of that coin was that there were over $8 billion in requests.  We funded 1043 law enforcement agencies.  We–out of–over 7,000 agencies that filed requests.  So clearly, the gap between the need and the resources to meet that need is huge. 

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program.  Bernard Melekian, he is the director of the United States Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing services COPS program.  Now both of you are smiling.  Did I blow the last name?  Am a constantly blowing the last name? 

Bernard Melekian:  Melekian.

Len Sipes:  Melekian.  I’m sorry.  And then I’ll get–

Bernard Melekian:  All right, I will say that your pronunciation is the most common. 

Len Sipes:  Well, now I’m going to get my dozen emails from, particularly from the New York City area, going Leonard, once again, you proved that you cannot get a name correctly.  Okay, so www.cops.usdoj.gov.  And the idea here is that not only do you, the COPS office, continue to fund positions in law enforcement, but you continue to provide some sense of moral guidance as to where the law enforcement community should be going.  And consequently, the rest of us in the criminal justice system, where the community should be going in terms of its relationships to the community. 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, my hope is that, and my belief is that American law enforcement does not need Washington to provide a moral compass for how they serve the community.  What I think we do is to help articulate what community policing is, and how those federal resources should best be used.
As I said, I think there’s this view of the COPS office as a hiring arm of the federal government.  I–what I want people to–sheriffs and police chiefs and elected officials across this country to realize is that we are not going to solve the economic challenges that the cities and counties of this country face.  And we ought not to be viewed that way.  What we can do, and what we will do is to provide three or four year problem solving grants.  In other words, what is it in your community, what challenges are you facing?  Is it gangs?  Is it– I just came from a meeting in El Paso of the southwest border sheriffs who face, you know, a unique–

Len Sipes:  A lot of problems. 

Bernard Melekian:  –set of challenges–

Len Sipes:  Yeah. 

Bernard Melekian:  –that really are unique to American law enforcement.  Those are specific community problems that the hiring of additional personnel to address those problems is exactly what the COPS office was designed to do.
Adding to that, I think as we go forward, is to encourage agencies, and I think the economy is going to do this, to encourage agencies to enter into regional projects and to enter into regional collaborations and partnerships. 

Len Sipes:  Bernard, we’ve been talking a lot about the money that the COPS office provides.  And–but isn’t this more an issue about telling the rest of us, instructing the rest of us, helping the rest of us in the field understand what is important, what works, what doesn’t work in terms of community oriented policing? 

Bernard Melekian:  Yes, I think it is.  I mean, I think one of the things, community policing by definition is unique, is unique to the community that it serves.  What works in Brooklyn, Iowa is probably completely different than Brooklyn, New York.  And I think it has to be shaped that way.  I think so one of the things that we’ve tried to be clear on, the COPS office historically has never attempted to tell agencies what they should do, what community policing was for them.  But I think we do have an obligation to search out evidence based practices, look for best practices, share that information, and structure our funding mechanism, so that they become goals to strive for. 

Len Sipes:  Right.  But the best practices, I mean, there are–there’s got to be some sense of a collective whole of knowledge in terms of look, we both know, and we talked about it at the beginning of the program, stoic cops who don’t communicate with the community are people who don’t solve a lot of crimes.  There’s got to be some level of communication with the community.  And unless that level of communication is there, community oriented policing doesn’t work, correct? 

Bernard Melekian:  Yes.  And I think–I think the–it needs to go beyond that.  I think it needs to be a–that communications piece has to be combined with a level of technical competence.  And by technical competence, I refer to culturally technical, as well as sort of instrumentally technical.
Policing in America’s communities large and small today is far more complex than when I came in to this business.  We can talk about and should talk about issues of race and ethnicity, for example.  But when I–in the 1970’s, that was really America–when America talked about race, they talked about black and white.  In the department that I came from in California, there were 23 languages spoken in the school district.  How do you communicate when you can’t speak the language?  And you clearly are not going to be able to simply do that by hiring a certain number of people who can speak a particular dialect.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  There is technology out there that has to be grasped.  There are cultural sensitivity issues that have to be grasped.  And so the definition of community policing almost by default has become far broader than it was 20 years ago.  The COPS office wants to help and can help agencies identify resources, what are other departments doing, what have other departments done.  We do provide training and technical materials, but we’ve also said if you’re going to hire police officers to interact with your community to advance community policing, then we’re–we want to know exactly how you’re going to do that.  We want to measure it.  Hiring officers is an output.  Achieving community policing is an outcome.  We’re striving for outcomes.

Len Sipes:  But in essence, once again, it is the community policing, the heart and soul of it.  I mean, you have a debate in this country right now in terms of, you know, a problem oriented policing, problem solving policing.  You’re talking about targeting high risk offenders, which is something that we do with the Metropolitan Police Department here in Washington D.C., where we target high risk offenders, who are on our case loads.  There’s all sorts of forms of policing, but my guess is community oriented policing is getting away from stove pipes and recognizing once again that without the community support, it doesn’t matter what we do.  I mean, is that a reality or not?  I mean, we have to have the community support to be effective.  And through community policing, we use whatever mechanisms are available to get that community support.

Bernard Melekian:  I think you’ve touched on a very important point.  First of all, the community support is critical.  If we don’t have community support, then you simply have an army of occupation.  And that, you know, we don’t have enough police officers or the–nor is that a particularly effective way to, you know, to do business.
Having said that, all the things that you mentioned are simply styles, in my opinion, styles of providing community policing.  Problem oriented policing is very effective.  There’s a concept that’s come out of Los Angeles called predictive policing.  That’s got some interesting possibilities to go with it.
There’s a model out of Providence, Rhode Island, which I think is really where the future of policing is likely to go, called the Teaching Police Department, which pairs a department with an academic institution for the purposes of studying what that organization is doing, identifying what works, and what doesn’t work.  And if it does work, why is it working?  And then, share that with the field as a whole.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  The COPS office can facilitate that.  As departments want to undertake experimental efforts, for example, to try to address specific community problems, not again, Washington’s not going to make any effort to say this is what you should do.  But if you’re going to try this, we want to be able to measure it.  And if it works, we want to share it with the rest of the country.

Len Sipes:  Right, but do we not have that collective source of knowledge, though?  I mean, when I worked for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse as the senior specialist for crime prevention, it was my job to figure out what was happening in Albuquerque, and what was happening in Albany, and what was happening in San Francisco and whatever was working, and to build either documents or a collection of resources or referral sources.  So when another police department came in and said I’m interested in, oh, I don’t know, anti-burglary programs.  I can say, hey, he–these four cities have really interesting programs.  Go and talk to them.  I mean, there’s–somebody’s got to be at the center of all of this, dispensing the collective wisdom of what’s happening in the country.

Bernard Melekian:  You’re absolutely right about that.  And that really is what NIJ, National Institute of Justice has done a pretty good job of doing that.  But the fact of the matter is that most local practitioners very often because they’re–what they’re dealing with is so immediate, and so seemingly unique to their community, that they may not even be aware of the resources that are out there.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  And one of the things that Attorney General Holder has been very clear about is wanting to break down those stovepipes, and wanting to build mechanisms, so that information is available across the board.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  And part of the COPS office mandate in my opinion is to share with the field where those, not only what’s out there, but where they can go do their own research.

Len Sipes:  And it’s interesting because I totally agree with you, by the way, is that I’m not quite sure sitting in Washington, D.C. for probably a good part of my career is not, you know, is nothing comes out of me or anybody else, that’s particularly wonderful in terms of knowledge.  All we do is suck up the knowledge of the experiences of what’s happening at the local level, and share it with others.  I mean, it’s really what’s happening in the cities and the counties and the states throughout this country.  And they push it to us.  And we somehow, some way get the word out about what they’re doing.
The ideas, the true innovation in law enforcement is not coming from D.C.  It’s coming from the individual police departments.

Bernard Melekian:  That’s correct.  And one of the goals that I have for the COPS office is that all too often, those agencies that do unique groundbreaking effective kind of things all too often you find that when the chief leaves, so does that particular program.

Len Sipes:  And why is that?  Why is it that leaders, when they transition, a new person comes in and he wants to put his or her own stamp on the program.  There is no state of the art in terms of community based policing, where the person comes in and says oh, obviously, I need to continue doing what my predecessor did.  Why is that?

Bernard Melekian:  Well, I think one of the things that we–and one of the goals the COPS office is to really institutionalize community policing and community policing practices.  You know, one of the–in what I thought was the–a groundbreaking book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins talked about what makes a truly great organization.  And one of the things that he talked about was the fact that you have to–in order for an organization to consider itself great.  It has to be able to sustain its growth or sustain its success, whatever you’re measuring through at least one change of CEO, one change of leadership.
Because if you don’t do that, then the leader may have been very effective, but the program was a function of his or her leadership, and not a function of the idea.  One of the reasons that I’m so intrigued by the Teaching Policing Department model is if we can measure a program, if we can find ways to evaluate groundbreaking programs that work, and share them with the field in kind of a personality neutral way, I think we may be able to get buy-in, not just from the executive level, which is traditionally where sort of creative, progressive thinking at least on the surface seems to start, but really get it down to the middle management and first line supervision level, which will accomplish two things.  One, it means it actually get done because people are invested in it.  And two, it will mean that the police chiefs of 10 years from now are invested in this kind of vetting.

Len Sipes:  So in the final minutes of the program, this is what I’m hearing.  COPS is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that seems to do two things.  That seems to A, provide money to hire police officers or to fund specific programs that are truly innovative, and B, provide the leadership in terms and then to share the experience of what’s happening with law enforcement agencies throughout the country.  So whatever good things Rochester, New York is doing can be replicated in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Is that the heart and soul of COPS?

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So it is the–that sharing part of it, and that funding part of it that most people who are listening to this radio program can go to your website, www.cops.usdoj.gov.  And on the website, what I read and in terms of your magazine, the COPS magazine, through your website and through your magazine, which is free, by the way, for anybody who wants to obtain it through the website, they can get a sense of what the state of the art is in terms of community based policing?

Bernard Melekian:  Yes, that’s correct.  If you go to that website, and we’re really working very hard on updating that website and bringing the best–links to the best practices, both in terms of police departments and academic institutions in our regional community policing institutes across the country, and having the resource available for the field.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so the website, the magazine is a point of dissemination.  And the philosophically community based policing is not–doesn’t have a national definition.  Every police department for themselves have gone to figure out what community based policing means for them.  If there is an issue in terms of the Spanish speaking community, and that happens to be the priority and lots of crimes are being committed there, and you’re not getting the cooperation, that police department’s not getting the cooperation, then for that particular police department, outreach efforts to the Spanish speaking community, and sitting down and talking with them and figuring out common strategies to approach a crime problem, that would be their strategy.
In another city, it could be burglaries and figuring out the best way of communicating with citizens in that area about burglary, so they can get the information they can need to catch perpetrators.  I think–

Bernard Melekian:  I think if I could just interrupt for a second.

Len Sipes:  Please.

Bernard Melekian:  I think there is a–I think in a way, there–hopefully going forward from this point, is that there is a national definition of community policing and that’s building relationships and solving problems.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  What–and the examples that you cited are exactly on point.  In each of those cases, in spite of probably different geographical locations and certainly different sort of tactical concerns, at the end of the day, that police department needs to build relationships, whether it’s with the Spanish speaking community in one city with it’s–whether it’s a group of effective neighbors–affected neighbors in another city, there has to be a relationship there.  There has to be a line of communication there.
Now then we get into the issue of how do we do that?  That’s really tactics.  But the strategy is to build relationships and solve that community’s problem.

Len Sipes:  And it is also, in the final analysis, as we close out the program, there’s a larger sense that we within the criminal justice system, we can have an impact.  And we do have an impact.  There’s no doubt that law enforcement has an impact on the–

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  –quality of life and criminal activity within an area. But in the final analysis, we’re going to be–law enforcement is going to be much more effective if we have the full cooperation and blessing of the community.  And the only way we have the full blessing and cooperation of the community is to work with them as cooperatively as we can.

Bernard Melekian:  And really to help neighbors and residents realize that they are the solution, that ultimately, it is their commitment to their quality of life and their willingness to work with the department to achieve that, that becomes the essence of community policing.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  Our guest today has been Bernard Melekian.  He is the Executive Director–the Director, rather, of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as COPS.  The website www.cops.usdoj.gov.  Once again, we really appreciate all of the letters, all of the phone calls, all of the emails, all of the comments in the comment box, all the interaction that you provide us in terms of what you would like to see in the show.  You can feel free, once again, to reach me directly via email.  Leonard, leonard.sipes@csosa.gov.  We’re up to 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for the radio show, television show. The blog and transcripts, and we are really in your debt for all of the interaction that you have with us.  And we want you to have a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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The Role of Faith and Released Prisoners-DC Public Safety

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This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/07/the-role-of-faith-and-released-prisoners-dc-public-safety/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Back at our microphone is Reverend Yvonne Cooper.  She’s here to talk about faith based mentoring and this whole concept of what it’s like to have volunteers sit down with individuals out of the prison system.  What they’re doing to help these individuals readjust to life on the outside of a prison setting.  With her today is Louis Sawyer.  Louis is on parole being supervised by my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we’re a federal parole and probation agency here in the District of Columbia.  Before we begin the show, the usual commercial, a thank you to everybody.  We are up to 225,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety, radio, television, and blog, and transcripts.  We really appreciate your comments.  We live by your comments, whether they’re negative or positive, and we really, really, really super appreciate them.  If you want to get in touch with me directly, you can do so by emailing me, Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can follow us via twitter at twitter.com/lensipes.  Back to our guest, Reverend Yvonne Cooper and Louis Sawyer.  Welcome to D.C. Public Safety, Yvonne and Louis.

Yvonne Cooper:  Thank you so very much!

Len Sipes:  It’s always fun when you’re on the program, Yvonne.  There’s never a dull moment.  You are enthused, you are charged up about what it is that you do, and you’re an inspiration to the rest of us who plod through, sometimes those of us who are paid to do this, we plod through this at a certain point.  Sometimes our enthusiasm wanes, sometimes our enthusiasm is not as it should be, your level of enthusiasm is always at peak level.  Why is that?

Yvonne Cooper:  Well –

Len Sipes:  And you don’t get paid to do this.

Yvonne Cooper:  No, I do not!  No, I do not.  You know, God has placed on my heart to help those who can’t help themselves.  I’d like to call it the least, the limited, and the lost, and so I’m so excited that the Lord thought it not a robbery to choose me, even me, a former wretch like me, to help some other folk that have come through the trenches, because I too have gone through the trenches, having been there, done that, former felon myself, or felon, I guess I should say, and I’m just so glad that I had that experience, because had I not had that, I would not be doing the work that I do, so I’m excited.

Len Sipes:  You wouldn’t be doing this work if you hadn’t had that experience, if you hadn’t been part of the criminal justice system, if you hadn’t been incarcerated yourself, you wouldn’t be doing it?

Yvonne Cooper:  I’m pretty sure I would not have been involved.  I thought of criminals as “those people,” but when I had the opportunity to be imprisoned myself as a convicted felon, I learned that I was more like them than different, so it’s because of that experience that I do what I do today.

Len Sipes:  And I think one of the reasons we do the radio shows, and one of the reasons we do the television shows is sometimes to put a human face on the individual that we call an offender of what most people would simply refer to as criminal.

Yvonne Cooper:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Because they read the newspapers, they watch the evening news, and every day, there’s endless litany of people under supervision, or formerly under supervision doing terrible things to other human beings, and that’s how they derive their image of “criminal.”  One of the things that’s always surprised me is that once you sit across from, again, I’ve been in the criminal justice system 40 years.  I’ve worked with offender, people under supervision, or the offender population for a lot of those years.  So I understand that they’re just, they’re no different from you and I.

Yvonne Cooper:  Amen.

Len Sipes:  There’s a certain point that once they get beyond their criminality, and once they get beyond their drug use, they’re pretty much not any different between you and I.

Yvonne Cooper:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  Yet the average person carries that stereotype, and that stereotype sticks.

Yvonne Cooper:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  And that’s one of the reasons why we don’t have the drug treatment.  That’s one of the reasons why, in my opinion, one of the reasons why we don’t have all the programs we need.

Yvonne Cooper:  Certainly, certainly.  Oh, I agree with you 100%, Lenny, but it is because of people like me and programs that are out there, that think it necessary to help our population to return back to society as a whole person.  They’ve had so many challenges, most times, even before they went in, and so certainly, they’re going to have an abundance of problems when they come home.  We look at today’s times, the issue of jobs is so hard for Joe Q. Citizen, and it’s doubly hard for those that have been incarcerated.  Not just jobs, but even housing, those kinds of things, and so it is very important, at this particular time, that we help those who have come home, and, you know, as you, I don’t need to say this to you, CSOSA being in place because of the fact that we don’t have a facility here in Washington D.C. –

Len Sipes:  We don’t have a federal prison –

Yvonne Cooper:  A federal prison, thank you so much, a federal prison.

Len Sipes:  Offenders from Washington D.C. go to federal prison for the people, let’s look at this –

Yvonne Cooper:  All over the country.  And so, yeah.  So I’m excited about doing this work.

Len Sipes:  Louis Sawyer, you’re on parole.  You’re under the supervision of my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  You’ve returned to the District of Columbia on February 9, 2010.  That’s a very short amount of time ago.  How long did you spend in prison?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, first of all, I want to thank you, Lenny, for the opportunity that you’ve given to come and to speak to you and your listeners –

Len Sipes:  And I thank you for participating.

LOUIS SAWYER:  And I would like to say a shout out to your listeners.

Len Sipes:  Well, there you go.  There you go.

LOUIS SAWYER:  Yes, and I came home after doing 25 years –

Len Sipes:  It’s a long time.

LOUIS SAWYER:  – on February 9, 2010, and I’m grateful unto God that he’s allowed me to come back to the city to be part of the re-entry of the returning citizens.

Len Sipes:  But that’s, most people who’ve spent that amount of time in prison, who come back tell me that it is a really difficult process of spending 25 years in prison, and then come back.  That’s, a lot of people find that almost impossible to do.

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, in my daily reading this morning, it talked about the IM out of impossible and making it possible.  With God, all things are possible.  So I am a firm believer that 25 years was like a time in which it was needed for me, as an individual, because I could have been dead in my grave and on my way to hell and have died in my sins, but I thank God, because he allowed me to go through that, and this being the 25 years that I served was a, chapter one in my book, to come out and to be a better citizen, to be a catalyst to those who are coming behind me to be able to be that individual, to circumvent all the negativity, and to make sure that things are better.

Len Sipes:  Two things are crossing my mind.  Number one, your faith.  Obviously, you’re an individual of faith, and one of the things that I’ve found about a lot of people, if not most people, who cross that bridge, as I put it, from tax burden to taxpayer, a lot of it is faith.  A lot of it is faith in a higher power, and to us as a federal agency, it doesn’t matter to us whether it’s Christianity, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Muslim religion, it doesn’t matter if it’s Catholicism, it doesn’t matter.  Most people who seem to do well express a sense of an allegiance, an alliance with God, and that helps them move through society, it helps strengthen them, and helps them deal with drugs, adversity, jobs, family, that sort of thing.  Am I right or wrong?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, let me concur with you on that, Lenny.  There is a higher power, and it’s God Almighty in my life, and I also believe that family is essential, along with the church family, along with mentors, along with advisors, along with counselors that have given you, given me a support network, a foundation, and without these individuals, God being at the head, family and church family and mentors and counselors and advisors, then I could not have been in this successful realm in which God has allowed me to be so far.

Len Sipes:  Now I do want to talk to you about these statistics about people coming back from prison because they’re not very good.  A lot of people fail.  A lot of people return to the criminal justice system outside of prison.  So I do want to talk with you about that, but Yvonne, talk to me a little bit more about faith, and again, that’s a delicate issue for us.  We’re a federal agency –

Yvonne Cooper:  Certainly.

Len Sipes:  – we have no interest in promoting any particular religion, but without the faith based volunteers, and without the individual religious convictions of the individuals who seem to do well, my fear is that many more people, many additional people coming out of the prison system would not succeed.

Yvonne Cooper:  Certainly.  Well, you’re absolutely correct.  I have found, in my work, that as a result of a faith base, most people who succeed are those that have had that faith to hold on to, be it Christianity, be it Muslim, be it Catholic, it does not matter.  The faith is the key element in my mind’s eye.  Now as you know, I am a Christian, but I work with everybody, because the Bible tells that God would have not one to be lost, and so I’m excited when I’ve learned that somebody has held on to some kind of spirituality base, and they have the spirituality base.  That makes all the difference in the world.  I mean, you’re absolutely correct, and all those other components are important, but the faith piece is more important to me than anything else.

Len Sipes:  You’re a pastor at Allen Chapel, AME Church.

Yvonne Cooper:  Associate minister, yes.

Len Sipes:  Associate minister.  www.amamc.org, www.amamc.org is the website for the Allen Chapel AME Church in Southeast Washington D.C.

Yvonne Cooper:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You know, most people who are either Christian or who are Muslim or who are Jewish don’t mentor to offenders.  And it gets back to that larger issue of how society views people out of the prison system, and you know, if you hadn’t been, you said it yourself, if you hadn’t had the experience of being incarcerated yourself, you may not be mentoring to Louis today.

Yvonne Cooper:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  So we have this view, regardless of whether we’re churchgoers or not, that those people have committed horrible things, and they’ve harmed society, they’ve harmed their families, they’ve harmed other people, and you know, they tell me, Mr. Sipes, look, quite frankly, I’d rather volunteer in the schools, or I’d rather volunteer to the elderly.  I’d rather do other things besides mentor to offenders.

Yvonne Cooper:  Well, that’s true.  That’s unfortunate.  I might have shared this with you before, Lenny, but for me, as a Christian, just, and I’ll just drop this on you for just a few moments, the prison system originated in the church, where God had put in place cities of refuge when people committed crimes, and so we move along the line, I believe it was the Mormons, Mormons or something like that –

Len Sipes:  It, it was –

Yvonne Cooper:  – started the first church –

Len Sipes:  Oh, For the Love of Heavens, it was in Pennsylvania –

Yvonne Cooper:  In Pennsylvania, right, and that’s still churchy, if you will, and so for me, it makes sense that the church would go back and make a difference.  I mean, that faith piece is very necessary.  You look at this.  When we, when I was out on the street –

Len Sipes:  The Puritans, I apologize.

Yvonne Cooper:  The Puritans, that’s what it was.

Len Sipes:  I knew I had it.

Yvonne Cooper:  Absolutely.  Absolutely correct.  When I was out on the street, and Louis, too, most of us, we were out on the street, there were no four walls.  I mean, the world was our, was there for us, and we can do anything we wanted to, but when we went to prison, it was nothing but four walls, and so we had to sit down and listen, because somebody was there talking about faith.  It was the Muslims coming in, it was Catholics coming in, it was Christian Protestants coming in, and so there was somebody to listen, and they had our attention, and so consequently, some of us had a sense enough to listen, and praise God, when we came out, we were looking at the world in a different color eyes, with different color shades, if you will, and so we’re seeing things a lot different than we were, because before, I wasn’t saved myself, and so it was not until I went to prison that I gave my life to God, and so I had sense enough to, you know, to listen up.  And so the faith piece is very important.

Len Sipes:  Well it’s very dicey and delicate for an agency like ours, being a federal agency, to take on the faith based role, and even talk about the faith based role, because there’s always inevitably people who are going to object to it, succinctly saying, Leonard, you’re a federal agency, but it strikes me that the federal government, or any government entity is limited, is extremely limited in terms of what it is that we can do to reach the hearts and minds of individuals.  What happens is, in terms of the faith community, is that this individual comes out of prison, and he or she is surrounded by individuals who help meet their basic needs, whether it be clothing, whether it be food, whether it be a place to live, whether it be fellowship, whether it be getting a suit for a job interview, whether it’s taking care of the kids, the faith community in Washington D.C. and the faith community throughout this country does that sort of thing, so not only do they provide services, but I can’t help but feel that, for so many people caught up in the criminal justice system, their lives have been very difficult.  There’s a lot of abuse.  There’s a lot of neglect.  For female offenders, there’s an ungodly amount of sexual violence –

Yvonne Cooper:  Certainly.

Len Sipes:  – committed towards them.  A lot of offenders are claiming mental health issues.  If you sit and talk to the individuals caught up in the criminal justice system, and I’m not making excuses for their criminal behavior.  If you do the crime, you do the time.  Fine.  So I’ll say that before the emails come in.  But the issue is, is that they’re really struggling with life’s issues.  Early age of onset for alcohol use, early age of onset for crime use, dropping out, drug use, dropping out of school early, criminal activity, these are individuals who desperately need what another faith based leader called “a gang for good.”

Yvonne Cooper:  You talk about people before they go to prison, but I use Louis as an example, and he can speak to that himself.  Louis, I’m not sure when Louis was saved, before he went to prison, or once he got there, but I have never seen a person that I’ve worked with to embrace the Lord in the way that he embraces him in this sense, that he puts his entire trust in God.  I don’t care what it is, when he was looking for a job, when he was looking for housing, when he was looking for clothing, he was putting his entire trust in God.  He is an example of a person who really has put all of his trust in God, and it’s because of his faith.  Again, I understand, and I appreciate the fact that there are other religions out there as well, but I can only talk about Louis and Christianity right now, so Louis maybe should address that fact.

Len Sipes:  And we are, we’re going to get together and spend probably the next half of the program with Louis, but wanted to reintroduce the program, because we are halfway through already.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  We’re doing a program on faith based mentoring.  Back at our microphones, you have Reverend Yvonne Cooper of the Allen Chapel AME Church in Southeast Washington D.C., www.amamc.org.  With Yvonne today is Louis Sawyer.  Louis is on parole with my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  He’s been out after 25 years in prison, came out on February 9, 2010.  Louis, the second half of the show is going to be almost exclusively yours.  So you come out, and you’ve got this sense of faith.  Where did you have this sense of faith?  Where did you have this sense of faith?  Where did that sense of faith come from?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, Lenny, before I went in, I was a –

Len Sipes:  In the microphone, please.

LOUIS SAWYER:  I was a member of a church, but the church wasn’t in me, and when you have a religion, but you don’t have spirituality, or you’re missing something, and because of the fact of the Allen Chapel AME church with pastor Michael E. Bell, Sr. and Reverend Yvonne Cooper as the director of the missing links ministry, which is very, very insightful for those who are coming in and looking for employment, looking for housing, looking for clothing, looking for transportation, these are the items, the basic needs that our returning citizens are looking for, and when you have a church, members of the church, such as Allen Chapel AME, who extend their love, who extend their gratitude, extend a warm arm of affection, and they welcome you in, not concerned with your charges, not concerned how long you’ve been in prison, none of that, when they show the love of Jesus in their hearts, and they do for those who don’t even know you, and I experienced that the first Sunday I went, which is the first Sunday in March, and I’ve received that, and I thank God for the opportunity to be a part, and when you have that base, when you have that foundation, then how can you go wrong?  And then you have people that’s going to surround you, that’s going to be a part of your transformation, and being reintegrated back into society.

Len Sipes:  But I started –

LOUIS SAWYER:  You think that.

Len Sipes:  I started off the program with talking about Yvonne’s faith, Yvonne’s enthusiasm, Yvonne being up for this task, so many of us within the criminal justice system, there’s a certain point we’re beaten down by it.  We’ve seen so many people who we’ve tried to help not allow themselves to be helped.  We’ve seen so many people who we’ve emotionally been involved in go back to prison.  It’s a difficult system.  I mean, most, according to national statistics, most people go back to the criminal justice system, half go back to the criminal justice system, a higher percentage were re-arrested, but half go back to prison, either for technical violations, or a new crime.  So the issue is, is that, you know, there’s just a sense of, you have your faith, what happened to everybody else?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, let’s look at the statistics, since we’re talking statistics.  We know that when you have an entity, such as family, and church families, which is the Allen Chapel AME Church, and they surround you, and they do what they can, we can only know that for myself, going back to prison is not an option for me.  Whatever the circumstances is, God is ahead of me, and I believe that when you grasp that opportunity, when you grasp that knowledge, you know that there is no failure in him.  So all of my help comes from him.  So that is the basis, the core.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and everybody else –

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, Lenny.

Len Sipes:  But somebody, somebody has to!  I mean, I’m struggling with this issue, because if it was as simple as you say it is, then the federal government would hire and pay, and there would go the enthusiasm, because it’s the enthusiasm of the volunteers that I’m really impressed by, but okay, then we solved the crime problem in this country.  All we have to do is to fund volunteers and have sufficient numbers of volunteers, and all we have to do is to place some sort of religiosity and people inside the prison system, and we dramatically cut back on recidivism.  I mean, somehow, some way, we’ve got to explain to the public, okay, for Louis, it works, and for a lot of other people, it does work, but for a lot of other people, it doesn’t, and how, what do we tell them?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, first and foremost, you have to look at it in not being religiosity, if that’s how you –

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

LOUIS SAWYER:  If you look at it in that aspect, then you’re going to fail.  But if you look at it from a spiritual perspective, because there is a difference between religion and spirituality.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so your bottom line is God saves across the board, whether it’s a Muslim God or Christian God, or Jewish God, it’s that sense of faith that is going to be the making or breaking point in terms of people coming out of the prison system.

LOUIS SAWYER:  It’s a belief factor.  You have to believe that God sent his son, and because of that, the salvation is free to anyone who receives him as Lord and Savior.  Now when you put your faith in him, Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then nothing else is going to deter you from that.  Sometimes we have to let go and let God.  Many of us tend to hold on to our own idiosyncrasies, but when you release that and believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ever ask or imagine, then we as a community can rally around that and believe that.

Len Sipes:  But I’m going to go back to Yvonne and go back to you, Louis.  Yvonne, the answer can’t be that simple.  So, okay, everybody else doesn’t believe in God.  Somehow, some way, there’s got to be a larger, greater explanation for why so many people return to the criminal justice system.  I do, by the way, just my own personal belief is that if we were able to quadruple the number of volunteers, and if every individual who came out of prison was assigned, didn’t ask for, was assigned mentors, and there were multiple mentors, our recidivism rate would go down, but that’s not the case.  There’s only so many of you guys, people have to ask for the mentors, a mentor/mentee relationship.  It just strikes me that, is there a lesson for the rest of the criminal justice system in all of this?

Yvonne Cooper:  Well, you know, you mentioned earlier that people, people get a little turned around or distressed that, as mentors, when so many people return back to crime, and I will say this to that, Lenny, I understand that, but you have to have a commitment and understand that, even if you just save one, and I know Jesus left the 99 to go after the one, so if you just save one, and so even if you just save one, and that person don’t go back, to me, that is a win-win situation.  But with respect to what you said, I hear Louis, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.  However, I broadened my thoughts in this sense that it is my job, in my mind’s eye, that I would want to make sure nobody goes back to prison, so I embrace the religion that a person has, whoever they believe in, be it Muslim or whatever, I embrace them, because it’s important to me, first of all, we want to introduce Jesus to folk, but you, I’ll use this as an example.  I will tell a woman that I want to help her, so a woman who’s been in prison, I want to help her, and I can’t, she can’t see Jesus if she can’t feed her children.  And so they want to see something first, and so I want these people to see me helping them, whatever religion they have, and then prayerfully, I can lead them to Jesus Christ, but first, I want to keep them whole, and I want them to stay home, and I want to keep them whole, so they need to have something to hold on to, and if it is the Muslim faith, well then so be it, let it be the Muslim faith.  I don’t have a problem with that.

Len Sipes:  I apologize for being so terribly callous after 40 years being involved in the criminal justice system, the faith movement within the re-entry movement is probably one of the most inspiring things personally that I’ve seen in my 40 years within the system.  I embrace it fully.  I embrace it wholeheartedly, but that’s not the point.  The point is, is that we got Louis, and Louis is doing well.  I’m just curious about what we do with everybody else who’s out there struggling with drugs, struggling with employment, struggling with themselves, struggling with their own histories, you know, it’s easy for me to say, well, heavens, find faith, but that’s not a magic wand that you can wave over somebody.

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well Lenny, let me share something with you.  This is very important point that Reverend Cooper, my mentor at the Allen Chapel AME Church, along with Pastor Bell, you don’t have that.  If you had every church, every synagogue, every temple, every mosque that had a pastor, had an imam, had a faith based leader like that, then you would have, not the problems that you would have.  I would have to say that I’m jumping out there, but I’d have to say that if they had shown, if others would show their concern as Reverend Cooper and Pastor Bell showed, then we might not have the recidivism rate as high as it is in the nation’s capital, but we have to look at –

Len Sipes:  Or anywhere else in the country.

LOUIS SAWYER:  This is true.  But being that I’m in Washington D.C., I’m going to stay here.  And the statistics will prove that when you give that person, that returning citizen, an opportunity to look to something, when you provide transportation, housing, employment, medical, clothing, when you show the love, when you extend the love, and when you let them know that, hey, it’s okay, I’m here for you, the mentoring aspect, and we really look at the terminology of mentoring, and when we look at it in its entirety, we must realize that it’s a whole encompass of things, it’s not just one phase, it’s the greet the person when they come in –

Len Sipes:  It’s a gang!

LOUIS SAWYER:  It’s a what?

Len Sipes:  It’s a gang!

LOUIS SAWYER:  It’s a gang?

Len Sipes:  I mean the whole, there’s so many individuals caught up in the criminal justice system were raised by gangs.  They raised themselves, and they’ve been surrounded by a gang structure.  Now we have a gang for good.  It is all embracing.  It is a group.  It is one for all and all for one.  I mean, we have a criminal gang that’s dysfunctional and does a lot of destruction.  We have a religious gang that does a lot of good.

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, let me say this also, Lenny, that there’s two words that I have used and have applied in my life from the time that I’ve received the sentence until the time I was released was the initiative and persistence, and if you take the initiative to do what is right, and you look towards being persistent in doing it, in being to the point where failure is not an option, and to touch base and to connect and to network with those organizations and those people who are about something, I’m sure that when you put 100% of your time and effort, 24 hours, 7 days a week into it, then you don’t have any time for negativity.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s true, but again, I’m, and we’re in the closing minutes of the program, and I do want to just, I guess, my never-ending concern, and will be the never-ending concern until the day I die, is I take a look at people like you, Louis, and I’m saying, okay, thank god for people like Reverend Cooper, thank god for Louis, but daggonit, why can’t we reach everybody else?  And that’s the closing moments of the program.  I just, Louis, are you doing well?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Thanks be to God, I am doing outstanding.

Len Sipes:  And so life is decent, life is acceptable, and your chances of going back to drugs and prison?

LOUIS SAWYER:  Well, I’ve never done drugs.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

LOUIS SAWYER:  Never done drugs, but prison is not an option, but I’m very content with the way the life that God has allowed me to live, and even though I’m still looking for employment, but God is able, and when time comes for me to get employment, then that will be my time.

Len Sipes:  And for those people listening in to this program in the D.C. area who have job offers contact us through the points that I’ve just given you.  Reverend Yvonne Cooper, god, I love having you with these microphones –

Yvonne Cooper:  God bless you.  God bless you.

Len Sipes:  I really enjoy just sitting across from you and having these discussions.  Final thoughts?

Yvonne Cooper:  Well, I thank you so much, Lenny, for the opportunity.  When I contacted you about Louis, you were excited.  I got you as excited as I was, and so I thought he would be a good candidate.

Len Sipes:  I love success stories.  I absolutely adore success stories.

Yvonne Cooper:  He’s just awesome.  I mean, he’s an awesome man of God, and I’ve, his faith is just extraordinary, and so I wanted others to hear about his faith, and I think he did a stupendous job here today.

Len Sipes:  We’re out of time.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  Our guest today, Reverend Yvonne Cooper of the Allen Chapel AME Church in Southeast Washington D.C., www.amamc.org.  With her, Louis Sawyer, under our supervision at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  If you have a job to give to Louis, now’s the time to get in touch with us.  You can do so directly at Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or follow us on twitter, twitter.com/lensipes.  We really appreciate all of your comments, most of you comment in the regular comment boxes, but we get the emails, and we get the twitter followings, and we are grateful, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

Yvonne Cooper:  Amen!

LOUIS SAWYER:  Thank you, Lenny!

[Audio Ends]

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