|From right to left - Chief Manuel Orosa, DTRT winners, DTRT Board Member Rosalind Castle, and Jodi Atkison at a recent awards ceremony.|
For over 20 years, the Miami (Florida) Police Department’s Do The Right Thing (DTRT) Program has served as a major community policing initiative, targeting the city’s 400,000 plus students in the nation’s fourth largest school district. The non-profit was created in 1990 to address the problems of crime, gangs, and drugs and their ever-increasing influence on Miami’s youths. A concept so simple as rewarding children for “doing the right thing,” led to the expansion of this highly successful, award-winning program to over 50 chapters in the United States and four internationally, all operated in partnership with law enforcement agencies.
Do The Right Thing was officially born when a Miami police officer requested that the chief recognize a local high school student for turning in a loaded gun that he had found, despite pressure from his peers not to do so. The young man was visibly moved as he was applauded by the 100 plus people who attended. Local volunteers, who witnessed the ceremony, recognized that a formal, on-going mechanism needed to be developed to recognize “good kids” in the Miami community. Today, the DTRT awards ceremonies are held monthly in conjunction with police officer awards at police headquarters in downtown Miami. Ten worthy students are invited to attend with their families and school representatives. They are recognized by the chief of police, with prizes ranging from digital cameras and plaques to tee shirts and trips. Two top winners are identified monthly in the elementary and middle or high school categories and awarded with trips. Younger students are taken to Orlando, Florida theme parks and water parks while the older students—totaling more than 100—have travelled to London, England. In addition, all nominees to the program—approximately 500 monthly—are considered winners and receive a DTRT tee shirt, letter from the chief, personalized certificate of recognition, and a DTRT bumper sticker.
Along with the awards component, DTRT offers an array of activities to help children in the community. Annual anti-crime contests, leadership and stress management seminars, and anti-violence youth rallies aim at giving students the tools necessary to stay crime and drug free.
The Do The Right Thing Program is funded, in part, by the Miami Police Department’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF), which is comprised of drug asset seizure and forfeiture monies. Additionally, program staff actively fundraise, seeking corporate sponsorships, grants, and in-kind donations—such as airline tickets and other prizes—to help offset its operational costs.
The goals of DTRT are clear cut: to reinforce socially desirable behavior among youth; to demonstrate that “good kids” can be role models to their peers; to foster positive relations between the police department, school system, media, and local businesses; to enhance the relationship between underprivileged youth and police officers; and to develop a network of DTRTchapters that will benefit youth both nationally and internationally.
Do The Right Thing
If you are interested in learning more about DTRT or would like to join the DTRT network, log on to http://dotherightthinginc.org/, call 305.579.3344, or friend us on Facebook at Do The Right Thing of Miami, Inc.
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