U.S. Lawyer acknowledges native regulation officers

A New Castle police youth program, another that helps felons find jobs and overall good police and community interactions were reasons Lawrence County’s law enforcement team was recognized Wednesday.

Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman and his staff traveled from Pittsburgh to New Castle to shower accolades upon New Castle police officer Brandi Stewart, city police Chief Bobby Salem, Mayor Chris Frye and Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa — all in the spirit of National Police Week.

The special ceremony in the Lawrence County courthouse, organized by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice, recognized the efforts of local law enforcement in working together within their communities.

“I think we all know, this is not an easy time to be a police officer in America, given current events,” Kaufman said. “Add to that, the fact that being a police officer is always a tough job. Yet everyday across Pennsylvania and in New Castle, men and women in blue put their uniforms on to protect and serve our communities.”

They work long shifts, and one never knows what is going to happen, he said, noting they are often in unpredictable and dangerous circumstances.

“We need good officers more than ever,” Kaufman said.

He credited Stewart’s work as an officer and with the New Castle PLAY (Police Leading Active Youth) program, a partnership with the New Castle YMCA and county juvenile probation department. The program is designed to promote trust and understanding between young people and police officers, Kaufman said, adding, “Nothing could be more important.”

The program is based on the idea that young people, if reached at an early enough age, can develop strong positive attitudes toward police officers and the law, he said.

“Officer’s Stewart’s work in the PLAY program has made a real difference in the quality of life for New Castle residents,” Kaufman said. “These kinds of personal interactions build mutual trust, which is essential to addressing neighborhood problems and reducing crime.” 

Stewart was highlighted by the New Castle police on its Facebook page as the first African American female police officer for the city of New Castle. She was hired as a part-time officer in 2017 and promoted to full time in 2018. She is working on the department’s major case assistance team and serves as quartermaster and scribe for the Special Response Team. Her goal is to work as a detective in the criminal division. Outside of her duties, she volunteers for various police department events and community service projects, including the PLAY (Police Leading Active Youth) Program.

“I knew nothing about this, I just found out today,” a surprised Stewart said of her recognition. “I’m completely blown away.

“I genuinely enjoy working with the community,” she said. 

Salem said he feels extremely fortunate to have a good working relationship with Lamancusa and Frye as the mayor.

“We share one goal through public safety, reducing crime and public service, and that goal has always been to improve the city and community we live in,” he said. “Working with these two individuals has been an honor for me and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Frye commented that he has had the privilege of working beside Salem, Lamancusa and the police department.

“I hear what their strategies are to keep our community safe,” Frye said. “ I am thrilled to know you guys are leading the charge to make New Castle a better and safe place to live, and that goes for all of Lawrence County, as well.”  

Kaufman commended Lamancusa for pioneering the Jail to Jobs program, which was borne from a past convicted felon’s denial of work from 28 different places because of a 10-year-old prior conviction. 

The district attorney’s office through the program works with with local employers to help nonviolent past felonious offenders find gainful employment to support their families and reduce recidivism.

“The idea of Jail to Jobs is to provide opportunities for people who have made mistakes in their past,” Lamancusa commented. He credited Gary Filippone, his staff worker who directs the program, for its continuing success in finding dozens of jobs for past offenders.

Lamancusa said he  believes that program “will be the legacy of my term of office.”

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