THE FOLLOWING IS A GUEST POST FROM STARFISH BOARD MEMBER AND US ARMY COLONEL (RET) YEE HANG:
I apologize for the long post however what needs to be said cannot be expressed in a few words.
First, I acknowledge my bias as a board member on the Starfish Assignment. Second, my opinions expressed in this post are based solely upon my personal experiences and first-hand knowledge, so I make no assertion about events that I am not aware of. Lastly, this is not intended to be a political debate about the racial tensions that are currently dividing our Nation. I make no generalizations about the character of all police officers. I have, however, had the privilege to work with some exceptional ones and I can vouch for their character. I do not believe that Facebook is the right forum to have a candid discussion about this important topic. The purpose of this post is to make those of you who care about making our community better aware of a petition that is being circulated that will bar Columbus Division of Police (CPD) officers from Columbus City Schools. I admit that I do not know all the reasons behind the petition, however, I am certain that they believe that what they are asking for is right. After you have read their petition, please take a few minutes to read my comments below about how the removal of the CPD officers would impact the community. Please see the link to the petition.
I would like to start by stating that the non-profit Starfish Assignment has no political agenda, nor do we advocate any purpose other than to make a positive change in the Columbus, Ohio community. Also, all of the board members serve as volunteers, and we receive no form of compensation for our services. Our founding member and board president, Nicole Banks, started the organization after a chance encounter with a homeless veteran in the summer of 2018. Since then, we have made great strides in helping our fellow community members. However, as a small and new non-profit, we realized that we needed to partner with an organization that understood the Columbus community, especially those who needed the most help. As a former United States Marine Corps police officer, Ms. Banks realized that the police officers, who serve 24/7 and who see both the good and bad, were the most connected to the community. As a result of this connection, the Starfish Assignment organization partnered with the CPD because we felt that was how we could do the most good.
We are still a learning organization; however, I believe what we have done and hope to continue to do in association with the CPD and other community agencies will help to bridge the gap of misconception and misunderstanding. For example, we have helped to give over 1,000 new coats to children in the community as well as to women rescued from human trafficking. We provided over 500 free haircuts and over 1,200 bookbags filled with school supplies. During Christmas of 2019, police officers gave out over 1,000 bags of hygiene items, food, socks, and other essentials. Recently, we initiated the Books & Badges program with the CPD in which our police officers, including the Chief of Police as well as our Deputy Chiefs, were in the classrooms reading books to elementary school children. At the end of the sessions, the police officers answered questions and the children were given a copy of their own books. To date, over 2,200 books have been given out.
In addition to these major events, we have also partnered with CPD to help make Christmas possible for a family whose presents were stolen, helped a single father get his brakes fixed so he could go to work, provided bicycles for kids and teens, and helped a homeless mother of two get back on her feet. The list goes on – you can read more about these on our blog – starfishassignment.org/blog. The fact is, most of these community outreach events would not have happened if the CPD had not made the Starfish Assignment aware of the need. The interaction of the CPD officers with the community, especially with the children, is the key that has helped us to make the community a better place.
As I stated, my intent was not to make generalizations about the character of all police officers, however I can vouch for the goodness that I have seen. We all have flaws and have room for improvement. If the petition to remove the CPD from Columbus City Schools succeeds, it is my opinion that the small steps that we have made to bridge the misunderstanding will be lost. I do not know how this will impact other organizations, but the removal of our connection to the community will significantly degrade our attempts to help make our community better.
In closing, if after reading both sides you feel that I have made a convincing argument, please sign the petition to keep CPD in the Columbus City Schools.