SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4 News) – On July 15th a South Salt Lake police officer will retire from police work. And while he will no longer patrol the streets, he’ll still be spending time helping the kids in the community.
“If you’re not in front of him – he can’t hit you, right.”
He’s a part-time boxing coach. A part-time chef. A part-time mentor, advisory and example. And a full-time police officer.
“The things that kids have to deal with today and the violence that is out there compared to when I was growing up is 10, 20-fold now.”
From the day he put on the uniform, Officer Jerry Silva wanted to help the kids of South Salt Lake. He says he wanted to give them opportunities.
“We need to keep providing them opportunities and let them know we are here for them.”
That’s why he and others have been organizing events like this for 20 years through PAL or the Police Athletic/Activities League.
“I felt that with my old chief – Chris Snyder – that we could earn the trust of the family with programs like PAL and stuff like that and that’s what we did.”
One of those programs, cooking classes at the Salt Lake Culinary Center. And while it is about food.
It’s also about reaching out to kids and bringing in role models. This week State Senator Luz Escamilla stopped by to help cook and share a message with the kids in the class. And the league also helps kids get access to sports and activities that they might not otherwise be able to afford to try. Silva, who is the PAL director, says the league operates through fundraisers, grants and local business donations. And it allows police officers to get involved with local kids and help them find new things to focus on – and avoid the wrong things to focus on. And it’s been helping.
“When you have kids that leave your community and come back 5 or 10 years later – and tell you – to your face that you helped me and guided me.”
That means a lot to Officer Silva and the other officers involved in PAL. But more importantly – it means a lot to those who take part.
“I feel like in my career as a police officer I have helped people and have helped this community. And it fills my heart. And I tell these kids… I’m going to back you 100%. You just need to do your school work – doing everything you can to be productive. And its paid off. It’s paid off multiple times.”
Officer Silva is retiring after 22 years of police work in six days. But he’s not leaving PAL. He is the director and will have even more time to be involved and set up programs for the kids and teens of South Salt Lake.