She may not be in the firing line, but Police Athletic League Brooklyn Borough Director Jacqueline Smith has created enough good in the community to be recognized by law enforcement officials.
Smith was one of seven officers honored for her work at the 21st Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Awards, held at Brooklyn Law School yesterday.
Born and raised in Bed-Stuy and now residing in Clinton Hill, Smith works directly with teenage gang members and other at-risk youth throughout Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and East New York.
"I'm shocked to have been honored like this," said Smith. "The responsibilities that I have requires a strong team to be in place, so to be honored individually is overwhelming to me."
PAL trains local residents in youth development practices and offers children participation in a variety of afterschool and weekend programs.
Growing up, Smith attended P.S. 20, where her 6th grade teacher, Mr. Kahn, played a profound role in her development.
"He used to take us outside of the school and get us to explore," said Smith. "He always told me that I was here for a reason and that I was going to do something big with myself. So that definitely impacted me."
Smith has always been an active member of the Brooklyn community. In addition to her work with PAL, she organizes block parties, Safe Halloweens and Thanksgiving dinners, among other events, designed for children to get them off the dangerous streets and involved in developmental activities.
Smith also organizes community barbecues in the summer to reduce street violence, as well as Brooklyn Family ay in Highland Park, which brings together children from different neighborhoods with the goal of reducing youth-on-youth violence.
"I've had gang members come through these program who stop me on the street three or four years later to tell me they're graduating," said Smith. "Having that happen is like a rush for me and makes me want to go that extra mile."
Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes opened the event, while Fox 5 Reporter Lisa Evers was on hand to emcee.
"Our honorees have played a significant role in keeping Brooklyn safe, sometimes risking their own lives in the process," said Hynes.
Smith said her goal now is to expand her programs beyond Bed-Stuy and the surrounding neighborhoods.
"I want to be able to increase my spectrum," said Smith. "I love this borough, so it would be great if these programs could be accessible to all of Brooklyn."