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Politics & Government

Ex-Syracuse Parks Official Seeks Better Police-Community Relations through Cooperation, Sports

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WAER File Photo
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A former Syracuse Parks official is settling into a position to improve relations between Syracuse Police and the community.  The new role comes after summer protests and years of strained interactions with local residents over police conduct. 

How can some of the complaints the community has over police conduct and policies be worked out?  Jimmy Oliver believes he can bring a lot of people together - police, clergy, neighborhood folks, city officials - to listen and learn.   

“If we get to the table, we as the community, we as the police officer have to be willing to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.  But that starts with respect.  We know what the problem is, but now we need to come to the table and come up with a plan that’s going to be sustainable.”

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Credit Provided Photo / syrgov.net
Jimmy Oliver moves from the Dept. of Parks and Recreation to the new post of Director of Community Engagement in the Police Department.

Oliver is just starting a the new position of Director of Community Engagement.  He talked to me at Delaware school on the city’s west side.  He grew up here and plans to bring his community contacts to the conversation. 

The former city parks Deputy Commissioner will focus on youth through an expanded Police Athletic League.  He says he had success in Virginia making positive impacts through sports, but enjoyed more widespread gains.

“The sport piece is the carrot.  Once we get the kids in there, then we talk about job opportunities, job shadowing, academics, how we get kids to graduate.  You know, what if kids want to become a police officer; what if kids want to become a fireman; what if someone wants to become the commissioner of Parks and (Recreation).”

(Related: An Update on police reform efforts in Syracuse: City Limits Winds of Change)

Oliver knows the community saw its share of protests over police conduct – And that’s another segment he wants to include.

“Personally, I know some of the folks in those groups and I’ve known them when they were young kids.  Share your voice in a constructive way, but then have a solution about how we move forward.  And I’m going to lean on them.  This is what we said we wanted to do.  These are the type of relationships we wanted to create and change we want to make.”

Oliver believes there are already a lot of good examples of police at park programs, handing out ice cream, and stepping in to calm potentially volatile situations.  Progress to him will be more success for youth and more positive contact ith police officers, which he believes will - long-term – change a culture that’s led to brutality complaints and fear of police, that benefits no one.