Chronicle: Lots of good things for Normans of all ages | Opinion


I have tried not to abuse this privilege, writing about the “good things” happening in Norman. I see “good things” everywhere I look, and today I’d like to touch on three of them.

Point 1: The Police Activities League, or PAL. This is a program for young people, usually of school age, sponsored by the Normandy Gendarmerie, and which includes a sports program, field trips and presentations on topics such as responsibility, integrity, sharing, etc.

These presentations are given by police and community members. Participants are nominated by school counsellors, who select young people who the counselors believe will benefit most from the program.

I was involved with PAL for a number of years, helping the cops “keep the cats,” but it gave me a chance to watch the kids grow.

PAL was suspended last year. COVID and lack of adequate staff were the reasons. The good news is that PAL will resume in the summer of 2022, but with fewer participants and for a shorter duration than in the past.

Details will be worked out over the next few months, but if the past is a prologue, activities could include a visit to the zoo, a social service project (like helping out at the animal shelter), a lesson in table manners at a local restaurant and some inspiring life stories.

One story in particular stands out for me: Carl Pendleton, a former OU football player and current Norman cop, brought trophies and awards he won to the grill. The kids expressed their excitement, and then Carl told them, “None of these awards mean more to me than the opportunity to serve you and others.” I still choke thinking about it.

Item 2: Homeless Court. Yes, there is such a thing – and I had the privilege of attending one session.

For your information: some of our homeless people – not all – are involved in petty crimes, such as theft, trespassing, etc. These offenses usually carry a small fine, which many homeless people cannot pay. Failure to pay results in a warrant being issued, and homeless people who already cannot pay often ignore the warrant, resulting in another charge being laid against them. It becomes a continuous cycle, to no one’s benefit.

Homeless court aims to break the cycle by providing options for those charged. For example, a homeless person facing a trespassing charge will be fined a nominal amount, say $100. That person is then offered the opportunity to “pay” the fine through community service – they volunteer and receive $20 per hour credit on that fine by working at Food and Shelter, or Habitat for Humanity, or other places.

With this approach, the homeless person can free themselves from the fine, render a service to the community and have the satisfaction of achieving both objectives. After the hearing I attended, one of the defendants, ‘Johnnie’, stopped to tell me how much he appreciated the chance this system gave him.

Because I volunteer at Food and Shelter, I see how these helpers benefit this operation. And to those who think it doesn’t solve Norman’s “homelessness problem”, I say they are right – but it does help homeless people, one at a time, to break a cycle that is holding them back.

Point 3: Court of treatment. I’ve written before about the programs Judge Michael Tupper put in place to help people overcome addiction. And I commented on the Saturday morning races he sponsors as opportunities for participants to earn points toward graduation from the program while doing something that can benefit them physically and mentally.

I participate in these races, at the invitation of the judge. Proof that attendees take their recovery seriously, a significant number showed up on a recent Saturday in 24-degree temperatures and 10-plus-degree cold. We would run. I was cold – but inspired.

Maybe I’m looking at things through the proverbial “rose-colored glasses”. But I think I learned to look past the dirt and grime and accept people for who they are. Children, still in training, who can benefit from a program like PAL. Adults, homeless (for whatever reason) and drug addicts, trying to get out of what torments them.

I see successes — “good things” that our city can be proud of.

Bill Scanlon is a former Ward 6 Councilman who volunteers to support the Norman Police Department and the Norman Fire Department, and sits on several city committees. Prior to his work at Norman, Scanlon served 26 years in the US Air Force – where he last served as Chief of Mission Analytics under the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, studies and analyzes at the Pentagon – and worked for Northrop Grumman in Washington DC


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