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Posts Tagged ‘police’

Photo: Matt Nemeth for WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR station
Former football player Baron Batch reinvented himself as a street artist.

I enjoyed this story from the sports radio show Only a Game about a former football player who became an accomplished street artist. Sarah Kovash reported.

“It wasn’t until after Baron Batch left the NFL that he attracted the attention of the Pittsburgh police department. … It was while riding his bike along one of Pittsburgh’s riverfront trails that he stopped to spray paint a message.

” ‘You know, I just got so comfortable with painting on things outside,’ Batch says. ‘Like, I just was riding my bike and just tagged the trail.’ He didn’t stop there.

” ‘I had this tag that said “all your scars are lovely” down by the wharf. That’s where I like ride my bike, and I always get off my bike there and stretch my ankle. I have no cartilage in my ankle. It’s just grinding bones. I deal with chronic pain every single day. So, at that spot, you know, I was riding one day and stretching. And that hit me. Like, all your scars are lovely.’ …

“Batch started his company, Studio AM, about a year after leaving the Steelers. Young Pittsburgh residents took notice and began sharing his work on social media. Batch relished the attention.

“He started doing what he calls ‘art drops,’ where he would leave one of his paintings in a public area and post its location on social media — free to the first person who could find it. …

“He turned his studio — located in the Pittsburgh-adjacent, Rust-Belt town of Homestead — into a brunch venue and gallery. On Sundays, visitors eat fruit-covered french toast and savory rice dishes while chatting with the artist. It’s not the same crowd you’d find at a Steelers tailgate.

“Last year, Batch was commissioned for a mural project. He created 20 pieces throughout the city, mostly on the sides of buildings. …

“As Batch spent more time on outdoor murals, he moved from the surfaces he had permission to paint to … some he didn’t. …

“He painted other colorful messages — some on a bridge and a parking lot. It never occurred to him that he was breaking the law. …

“Batch was creating some of the most inspired art of his career, but his project was quickly halted when the police showed up. …

“In all, police said Batch caused more than $16,000 worth of damage. They charged him with 30 counts of criminal mischief. …

“Batch had to pay $30,000 in fines and legal fees. But he says his arrest also led to a much needed discussion about public art.

“Part of that conversation was with the Friends of the Riverfront. That’s the group that manages the trail Batch graffitied. The group gave Batch permission to paint a section of the trail that’s lined with concrete barriers.”

And it turned out that the arresting officer, Detective Alphonso Sloan of the Pittsburgh police graffiti squad, had empathy for Batch. He told the ex-football player, ” ‘Hey, I admire your artwork. Even though some of it’s, you know, it’s illegal.’

” ‘[He] said “OK, I’m an artist, and you’re an artist. How about we get together sometime?” We worked on several projects.’ …

“Detective Sloan hopes Batch doesn’t test the city’s graffiti laws again.

” ‘[I’m] hoping it’s just a one-time thing because I hate to arrest someone … you get to work with them and you actually like them.’ ”

More at Only a Game, here.

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Photo: Star Tribune
Police officers working to build a free-standing Little Free Library in Minneapolis as part of an initiative to encourage reading.

According to Libor Jany at the Star Tribune, some Minneapolis police officers are starting to engage with communities in a new way.

“In a partnership with Little Free Library, the department will turn a pair of its police cruisers into bookmobiles with the hope of teaching the importance of reading.

“Community policing officers will carry books while they are making their rounds on the city’s North and South sides. They’ll still respond to certain emergencies, but won’t be dispatched to calls for help, freeing them up to visit neighborhoods without libraries and give away books to anyone who wants them.

“The program is the first of its kind in the country, organizers say. …

“From a distance, the [Little Free Library] boxes could be mistaken for a birdhouse or an oversized mailbox. An unfinished dollhouse, even. But when they’re finished, officials say they’ll be stocked with dozens of all kinds books. People are encouraged to take a book or leave a book, without fear of overdue fines. …

“Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement that he was thrilled by the exercise in community building, ‘an incredible way to empower our youth and reach them in a positive way.’ …

“Little Free Library Executive Director Todd Bol started the book exchange in his hometown of Hudson, Wis., in 2009, building the first mini-library out of an old garage door in honor of his late mother. Today, there are more than 60,000 libraries in all 50 states and more than 80 countries around the world. In recent years, the little book boxes have sprung up in far-flung places like Australia and Qatar. …

“For now, available titles to be given away range from children’s books like ‘Camp Wildhog’ and ‘The Box Car Children: The Yellow House Mystery’ to more adult fare, including a well-thumbed unauthorized biography of Martha Stewart.” More.

Trust those Minnesotans to take a great concept a step farther!

A couple of my other posts on Little Free Libraries may be found here and here.

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As in other cities nationwide, relations between communities and police are often tense in Boston, but here is a small effort that focuses on reducing arrests and getting help for people who are troubled.

Evan Allen writes at the Boston Globe, “When Officers Michael Sullivan and Jeff Driscoll and senior crisis clinician Ben Linsky head out on their beat in Mattapan, they seek out the most vulnerable citizens: the drug-addicted, the homeless, and the mentally ill. Theirs is the only unit of its kind in the city, and its mission since it was started in February is to help, not arrest, people [with problems]. It’s part of a broader effort in the Police Department to work with the community. …

“Sullivan, Driscoll, and Linsky, who make up Mattapan’s ‘Operation Helping Hands,’ spend two nights a week freed from dispatch calls. Instead, they get to know the people on the streets, figure out what services they need, and try to provide them.

“ ‘You’re one part social worker, one part cop, and one part older brother,’ Sullivan said. …

“The number that [Police Chief William] Evans is most proud of is arrests: for the past year and a half, officers have been locking up fewer and fewer people. The city saw a 15 percent reduction in 2015, followed by the 10 percent drop so far this year.

” ‘When I came on the job, you measured what kind of an officer someone was by quantitative statistics. How many arrests. How many moving violations. We don’t do that anymore,’ Evans said. ‘I think our officers get it: It’s not about throwing people behind bars, it’s about getting them services and opportunities.’

“Driscoll, a 39-year-old father of two, has been on the force for 10 years, all of them in Mattapan. Before that, he served for several years in Watertown. He and Sullivan, a 32-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy, who joined the force three years ago, both grew up in police families, wanting to be officers. When Mattapan Captain Haseeb Hosein decided to start Helping Hands, they were an easy choice.

“ ‘With everything that’s going on in this country, the biggest thing is trust and fear. So how do we break those two barriers down? I think we break it down by building relationships,’ Hosein said. ‘They’re really good guys who understand the environment that we’re in, that we need to go the extra mile.’ ” More.

Getting people services that really create lasting change would be ideal, but who can cavil with de-escalating potential blowups? Ensuring that you don’t make matters worse than they are already is surely an important step.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
“Operation Helping Hands,” made up of two officers and a crisis clinician, is the only Boston Police unit of its kind.

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Central Falls, Rhode Island, may be best known today for going bankrupt and forcing its police and fire unions to accept cuts to pension benefits, but it has more going for it than angst.

It has people who care, like Mike Ritz and chocolatier Andrew Shotts, who are selling Chocolateville chocolate bars to help children at risk.

It also has a charter school that has quietly improved children’s reading skills, spreading its success to public schools in the city.

Joe Nocera writes in the NY Times that before starting The Learning Community in Central Falls, Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman “spent three years working with the Providence school system on a pilot program designed to come up with ways to ‘transform teaching practices and improve outcomes.’ ”

In 2007, when Frances Gallo became the Central Falls Schools superintendent, she began to investigate why families were so excited about getting into The Learning Community.

“The school drew from the same population as the public schools. It had the same relatively large class sizes. It did not screen out students with learning disabilities. Yet the percentage of students who read at or above their grade level was significantly higher than the public school students. When Gallo asked O’Leary and Friedman if they would apply their methods to the public schools, they jumped at it.

“ ‘At first it was, “Oh, here comes another initiative,” ‘ recalls Friedman. There were plenty of venting sessions at the beginning, along with both resentment and resistance. But The Learning Community invited the teachers to visit its classrooms, where the public school teachers saw the same thing Gallo had seen. And very quickly they also began to see results.”

Read about how they do it here.

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Not an appropriate quote, but I can’t keep it from coming into my head:
“Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
“That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
“Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
“That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.”

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