For her work in community policing, a Gainesville Police sergeant received an award this month from U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, GPD announced in a media release Monday.
Sgt. Audrey Mazzuca was one of three law enforcement officers to receive the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing in the Innovations in Community Policing category on Oct. 6 in Washington, D.C.
During her 19 years at GPD, Mazzuca said she’s always been passionate about pro-active, compassion-centered law enforcement. About three years ago, she was asked to join the Disproportionate Minority Contact Initiative, which aims to reduce the number of black youths arrested.
As part of the initiative, Mazzuca began the monthly Police Youth Dialogue with retired GPD Capt. Will Halvosa and Jeffrey Weisberg from the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding. During the meetings, which started about three years ago, about 12 officers meet one-on-one with local at-risk youth.
There, the officers eat dinner with the participants, spending an hour talking. Sometimes they discuss stereotypes, issues the kids face and how the police can improve relationships with the community, she said.
“We’re actually reaching out to kids that have been kind of labeled too-far-gone or at-risk,” she said.
So far, about 200 officers and 180 children have participated in the program, she said.
In the process, officers have built relationships with those students, Mazzuca said. She’s also encouraged officers to give student offenders counseling and life-skills training instead of arresting them, which has led to a 79-percent decline in on-campus arrests, according to the release.
Calling herself a behind-the-scenes worker, Mazzuca said she felt humbled and motivated when her colleagues at GPD nominated her.
“I hope to earn another one,” she said. “We’re still working. We’re still working hard.”