Monday, July 11, 2011

San Pedro Senior Lead Officer Joe Buscaino Gets Another Round Of Applause from the Los Angeles Police Department; He’s Named to Oversee Instructors of the Department’s Respected Youth Cadet Program

By Diana L. Chapman

A local police officer, who singlehandedly brought teenagers’ advice into the fold to help Los Angeles fight crime, was recently plucked to supervise all instructors in the department’s intensive youth cadet program.

Buscaino, 36, will begin his new duties with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Youth Cadet program by the end of July, but will remain a senior lead officer for the San Pedro area he currently serves.

Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said Buscaino was selected among thousands of officers for the post because of his keen abilities to understand that youth must be part of the LAPD’s game plan not just to fight crime – but to prevent it by including teens in its programs.

 “He thinks, he breathes, he embraces the young people of the community,” Paysinger said of Buscaino as to why he was selected. “It doesn’t matter who the kids are. That’s part of his organic nature. He’s a powerful authority. We could not help but make him the architect for this (cadet) job.”

Buscaino, Paysinger said, is an officer who clearly understands that youths have a role in the department’s future in a preventive fashion and said Buscaino spent much time advocating for teens while on the force.

This is the second recent accolade for Buscaino, who first received notice among the top brass for his extensive efforts in launching the initial Teen Community Police Advisory Board six years ago in the Harbor Area. He did so after he had several schools in his area with crime, drugs and bullying issues. He realized no one was listening to the teenagers and their suggestions to attack crime-related troubles even though they were in thick of things.

The youth, he said, had no voice.

Buscaino’s actions with teens, Paysinger said, reflects the belief that the department has spent too much time on the “negative aspects, such as bookings, and arrests,” of youngsters rather than giving them a hand up out of their environments and steering them into programs such as the Teen CPAB or the Cadet Academy.

“It’s humbling,” said Buscaino about receiving the post. “It’s no big secret I’ve invested a lot of time in youth. All the youth I’ve come across have stories and they need someone to turn to. So to have that role is to be there for the kids. It’s all come down to the teen CPAB putting me on the map in the city.”

Part of what caught his interest in guiding youth, he said, were the stories of “the two Manuels.” They both were students he met in his wife’s middle school classes and they both ran smack into troubles. One Manuel had fantastic support from his parents and was guided into the police cadet program. He became an A student and graduated from San Pedro High as the senior class president.

The other Manuel’s story disheartens him so much that tears still well in Buscaino’s eyes when he recalls it. At 14, the other Manuel got involved in some gang ties, had no support from “above ground or when he was in the ground.” He was shot repeatedly about four years while standing on his front porch on Sixth Street, near Gaffey.

Buscaino said he responded to the scene and traveled with Manuel on a short hospital ride, where the boy succumbed. “It was the longest six minutes in my life,” Buscaino said. “He had no support.” His killing was never solved.

That loss is one reason, Buscaino said, he’s driven to support youth – especially those that are ignored by the system and why the academy job suits him perfectly.

The academy, for ages 14 to 20 for about 5,000 youth, runs for 96 hours each and every Saturday to build a foundation for teens that come from all over Los Angeles. They are are trained in academics, leadership, physical training and many policing skills.

One of Buscaino’s greatest achievements , however, was launching the teen Community Police Advisory Board – which met with such great success including a dip in youth crime – that Chief Charlie Beck ordered all 21 areas of the department to establish such teen boards.

By the end of July, all 21 will host a Teen CPAB so teenagers can put “a face” on police, as one member said, and police can understand youngsters are human too.

Ironically in the cadet post, Buscaino will mostly oversee police officer instructors for the cadets, Paysinger said, and relay his philosophy when it comes to them.