By: Sharon Aron Baron
A Coral Springs student won first place in a scholarship contest held by the Broward County Police Benevolent Association. Awarded on June 23, the annual scholarship assists the children of law enforcement members in their effort to attend college
This year’s essay topic was “What do you consider to be the most important societal problem in the United States, and what is law enforcement’s role in correcting it?”
Brittany Bolger, a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, won first place with her essay for her answer: “..redundant dissemination of misleading information via mass media. Whether it’s through 24-hour news television, newspaper, twitter or Facebook, there is an unmistakable appeal to paint ALL law enforcement with the broad stroke of impropriety.”
To correct the misinformation, she suggested: “Now, more than ever, an officer’s ability to communicate with the citizens is essential in the development of positive relationships….but to truly understand the problem, there must be responsibility in finding solutions.” (full essay below)
Bolger, daughter of Cindy and Lieutenant Steven Bolger of the Hollywood Police Department, received a $1,200 scholarship which will be applied toward her education at the University of Central Florida where she will be majoring in International and Global Studies. Her scholarship was sponsored by Matthew Oppedisano of the Wellington, Florida-based Law Enforcement Retirement Advisory Service.
The second place winner was Jake Bottom of Coconut Creek. Jake received a $600 scholarship, which will be applied toward his education at Florida State College at Jacksonville. Bottom graduated from Pembroke Pines Charter High School and his step-father is a Hollywood Police Officer.
The third place recipient was Tanner Yurchuck of Lake Worth. Tanner will be attending Florida Gulf Coast University. Tori Fernandez of West Palm Beach earned the fourth place award and is currently attending the University of Central Florida. The fifth place winner was Kerigan McCoy of Coconut Creek. Kerigan will be attending Florida Atlantic University.
The remaining winners each received scholarships in the amount $500 from the Broward County PBA.
The Broward County PBA Annual Scholarship Award was founded in 2003 as part of The HOPE Fund’s mission to assist the children of law enforcement members in their effort to attend college. To be eligible for the scholarship, participants must be the son or daughter of a Broward County PBA member in good standing and plan to be a part-time or full-time student at an accredited two- or four-year university. For more information, go to bcpba.org.
Brittany Bolger’s winning essay here:
What do you consider to be the most important societal problem in the United States, and what is law enforcement’s role in correcting it?
Currently, the most important societal issue facing law enforcement today is the redundant dissemination of misleading information via mass media. Whether it’s through 24-hour news television, newspaper, twitter or Facebook, there is an unmistakable appeal to paint ALL law enforcement with the broad stroke of impropriety. These stories range from true corruption to justifiable use of force. By in large, people seem to rally around the propaganda of law enforcement injustice. There appears to be a flippant dismissal of the facts of a case, and certainly any benefit of a doubt. Statistics would show that over 99% of all law enforcement act with professionalism, nobility and bravery in the face of dire circumstances. They uphold their oath to protect and serve with dignity. Mass media has turned our nationally recognized practices of procedural justice upside down when it applies to law enforcement. There is an overwhelming sentiment that the cops are “guilty” when accused. In assessing this societal issue, we must consider the venues by which this message is delivered daily, over and over. Both direct and subliminal messaging is a very powerful position enhancer.
Law enforcement is now confronted with the ever-present hurdle of establishing communications and partnerships with the communities that have been influenced by actual experiences coupled with slanted reports of police behavior. This does not minimize the ultimate goal to protect and serve. Now, more than ever, an officer’s ability to communicate with the citizens is essential in the development of positive relationships. It’s easy to point fingers and criticize all that is wrong in our society. But to truly understand the problem, there must be responsibility in finding solutions. We should not narrow the prospect of a better way of life by limiting priorities to any one group or philosophy. There should be no qualifiers. To those that look to place blame, law enforcement should empower them to be a principle in the problem solving process.
Public service is an unselfish choice to put others first in the interest of upholding our constitution and protecting a civilized way of life. I understand the depth of the fidelity, bravery and integrity that my father and other police officers encompass. In a world of cynicism, it becomes difficult to see the good. However, as a child behind the badge there is no great hatred held hostage in my soul. There is pride and only the highest level of respect for my father, my uncles and the men and women in blue, as they accept the badge and all its responsibility regardless of the risks. As society gains understanding and involvement, I just hope the rest of the world begins to respect my father and his profession as much as I do. When that happens, we will see a visible change in societal behavior and the unity of our Country. The end result would be a national recognition that all lives matter.