Retired Police Chief Promotes Intervention to Correct Disciplinary Issues

Retired Police Chief Promotes Intervention to Correct Disciplinary Issues

Steve Chalmers’ many years with the Durham Police Department trained him for his new role helping the city's at-risk youth

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Steve Chalmers with Rebound Director of Operations Shannon LaRance at the Durham Teen Center. Photo by Sarah Arneson.

Retired Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers served on the force for more than 32 years, but he was not necessarily born into law and order. “When I was a student at Hillside High School, there was a boy who I did not get along with,” Steve says. “We eventually got into a fight. Assistant Principal Frank Howard Alston, who we called ‘Prof,’ got ahold of us. As our punishment, he gave us each a wood pole with a nail on the end and told us to go outside and spend all day side by side using that stick to pick up litter on campus.”

Giving two boys who never got along a stick with a nail on the end and telling them to go outside might have been a bad idea, but Steve goes on to explain the wisdom of Prof: “After about an hour of working together the other boy and I got to talking about why we did not like each other. After another hour we were laughing and realized we were more alike than we thought. We actually became friends that day and remain so.”

LESSON LEARNED

That was the day Steve discovered that intervention is the best solution to conflict resolution. During his years as a policeman, Steve was a big proponent of community services working towards prevention and intervention. So, when he learned about an organization called Rebound after he’d retired, he was immediately drawn to help the cause. The nonprofit offers a safe and constructive place for junior and high school students who are on short-term suspension from school. Located at the Durham Teen Center on Cornell Street, Rebound works in partnership with Durham Public Schools to provide a teacher to work with the students on their assignments, professionals to help them develop self-knowledge, improve self-esteem and teach them conflict management and effective communications skills.

“I had a personal relationship with a young man who was suspended from Riverside High School,” Steve says. “The assistant principal suggested he spend his week off at Rebound, and the young man agreed. Not only did it help him to stay current with his class work, it also helped him recognize when his temper was going the wrong way. He is now in college.” This chance meeting for Steve reinforced his core beliefs from his years in police work. “Comprehensive prevention and intervention works much better than enforcement.”

Prevention and intervention need hands to keep on working. We need funds and volunteers, because enforcement will not solve the problems of our youth today.

REQUESTING BACKUP

Short-term suspensions from school can have devastating effects on students. If a child falls behind in their classes because they are not allowed to be in a classroom for days due to a disciplinary issue, it is often difficult for them to catch up, and they fail. Students’ disciplinary issues are not automatically solved through suspensions, so the cycle continues, leading them to drop out of school.

Oftentimes two students who have had a fight are both suspended and can end up together at Rebound. “Put two people together with any difference and they can get over it,” Steve says. This is especially true when the staff and volunteers at Rebound help those students.

Rebound is currently open four days a week and can house 12 kids at a time. The organization is privately funded, despite its great benefit to the public school system. “Prevention and intervention need hands to keep on working,” Steve says. “We need funds and volunteers, because enforcement will not solve the problems of our youth today.” No one in our community knows that better than the chief.

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Dana Lange
Dana, a beloved member of the Durham Magazine team since our launch and the past board chair of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, highlights her fellow Durhamites making a difference by giving back.