When Zion Isom wrote his essay on increasing the bond between the community and law enforcement, he did it to receive extra credit from his English 3 teacher, Tabitha Eastham. The West Orange High School student never expected to win a “Day with the Sheriff” contest and have the chance to engage in one-on-one conversations with Orange County Sheriff John Mina.
Isom’s full day with Mina and other deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office was Nov. 18 and began with a visit to the sheriff’s personal office and a photo of Isom behind the desk.
Mina held a senior-level meeting, and Isom sat in on the discussion beside the sheriff at the head of the table.
Isom was briefed by OCSO’s senior staff members on current events involving the agency. He was able to hear important information from each division commander.
“It was cool,” Isom said. “(Mina) got everybody to share their thoughts. … I learned some things.”
Isom received a tour of the OCSO Central Operations complex and its departments. He visited the agency’s Emergency Operations Center. He was impressed with the work involved in the Forensics Department, which collects evidence and processes hundreds of items every day.
Throughout the day, Isom was able to meet many of the employees of the OCSO.
However, the highlight of the day, he said, was going up in the OCSO helicopter with the flight crew — his first time in a chopper — and taking a sky tour of Orange County.
“We went to my mom’s house, and she came outside and waved,” Isom said. “We went over West Orange (High School), and classmates were outside. We went over Disney Springs and over roller coasters.”
He was nervous at first, he said, but that sensation turned to excitement the longer they were in the air.
When asked to choose where he, Mina and two deputies ate lunch, Isom picked Wingstop.
Following lunch, deputies put Isom through some intense training. Through OCSO’s state-of-the-art virtual training simulator, he got a glimpse of what it takes to be a member of law enforcement. He discovered the high level of stress sheriff deputies and police officers are under in certain situations and the speed at which they must make decisions.
“They gave me a fake gun; it was kind of like a video game,” Isom said. “They asked questions, and you had to figure out if you had to shoot them or not. It is scary. You wouldn’t know what to do. You have to make a decision right then and there.”
Isom is a junior and a member of the basketball team at West Orange. Although he enjoyed his day with Mina and learning about the day-to-day OCSO operations, he said his mind still is set on getting a college degree in sports medicine or sports therapy.
“I think it was a really fun experience,” Isom said of his day with the sheriff. “It was cool. Everyone was nice. I had a good time.”
This is the second year OCSO has held the essay contest for 12- to 17-year-olds. The sheriff’s office received 16 submissions for this year’s contest, and Mina read all of them and selected Isom’s essay.
“After reading Zion’s essay and seeing how much thought he had given to law enforcement and community relations, I knew he was the right choice to spend the day with the sheriff,” Mina said. “We had a fantastic day that was enlightening for both of us. And along with all the cool things we did — like riding in the helicopter — the best part of my day was the time spent talking with Zion and getting to know him. Zion is a remarkable young man with a bright future ahead of him.”
HOW CAN WE INCREASE THE BOND BETWEEN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE COMMUNITY?
BY ZION ISOM
The first thing we can do is have more community meetings/events. If the police understand what we need from them — and we understand what their policies and procedures are and what they expect of us as a community — we can better understand each other and keep our community safer.
This will not work if we don’t listen to each other and communicate along the way.
This will not be a one-time meeting or event; this will need to take place often — at least once a month. There has to be order in these meetings; everyone can’t be just talking or yelling and screaming. It will need to be an organized event. We would want to have it open to the public but have a committee — with a speaker, a secretary and person taking minutes to make sure everything is documented and that we can follow up on everything we speak about.
In these meetings, we should have an outline, and again, the meetings should have order, but anyone who would like a chance to speak on the topic should have the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts and ideas on how to make a better bond between law enforcement and the community.
Everyone wants the community safe, and that’s why we need law enforcement, but, at this time, it seems that there is a great divide between the communities around the world and law enforcement. A lot of people are being killed by law enforcement for no reason at all, and I believe part of that problem is because there is no bond between law enforcement and the people.
I believe the police are scared and don’t understand that we are scared as well. Once someone in the community is hurt or dies — whether it’s law enforcement or a citizen that creates more of a divide between us — then it’s almost impossible to build a bond back because the community won’t trust law enforcement and law enforcement won’t trust the community. We need to communicate with each other and really, really, really listen, because if everyone is talking and no one is listening, this won’t help.
After we listen to each other, we need to come up with solutions that will help and benefit both the community and law enforcement. And meeting at least once a month we can revisit these topics and we can do what we can as a community and law enforcement can do what they can as police to help us create a bond and keep us all safe.
With order and a team from law enforcement and the community it’s no way we can build a bond and make our community safer and save some lives. Not only meetings but events, as well. Let us see law enforcement in another light and not as the monsters a lot of people have labeled them as since so many of us are dying by their hands.
I know here in Winter Garden there is a water day; I believe it’s organized by one of West Orange High School’s graduates, Dell Coates. I attended the event last year, and we had a blast. The police came by, they spoke with us and talked to us, and even though it wasn’t their event or an event organized by them, they hung out with us for a long time, and it was nice to see them talk to us like we are people and not criminals.
More organized events for us to be able to talk to them and be ourselves and let them know that we are all not criminals and maybe they won’t be so quick to pull their guns out on us for a traffic stop because a headlight is out. This is just one idea, but I’m so passionate about it, because I am a young black boy and some of the stuff I see on the news or speak about with my mom is scary for me.
Another thing is everyone from the community and law enforcement should be held accountable for their actions. That will bond us closer together. If we see law enforcement getting in trouble for their wrongdoings as well as the people of the community, then we can understand each other better. ... If everyone, no matter your status or title, is held accountable for your actions, that will bond the community and law enforcement closer.