When we wrote about the Watts Bears in 2013—a football team for children from the Nickseron Gardens, Imperial Courts, and Jordan Downs Public Housing Developments—L.A.’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program had only been around for two years. It was clear, however, that the initiative, which seeks to reduce crime and repair community-police relations in Watts, was experiencing success: As a neighborhood, Watts ranked as one of the top 10 most dangerous places in L.A. (71% of residents felt that gang activity was “often a problem” or “always a problem”), and the LAPD was neither welcomed nor trusted. And yet the football team, which is run by several officers, parents, and neighbors, brought its warring residents together. Now, the two officers behind the transformation will be recognized by president Obama for their efforts.
The CSP’s success can be attributed to LAPD Captain Phil Tingirides and his wife, Sergeant Emada Tingirides, who together spearheaded the movement to foster better relationships between Watts citizens and police officers. Since the program’s inception, police chief Charlie Beck noted that crime in the area has dropped, and officers are feeling the effect. “Housing developments have had one homicide in the last three years,” says officer Jack Richter, whose commanding officers are Captain and Sergeant Tingirides. “Ten years ago, there was one a night. The Captain switched out officers who use force and brought in officers with community relations experience, and it has made a huge difference.” Four years into the program, which received $5 million from the housing authority at its outset, LAPD officers can be found coaching the Bears and leading a Girl Scout Troop with 150 members. They have also created tutoring and college scholarship programs. “There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the United States,” Richter says.
The couple was invited to the White House by the first lady. They will be honored for their accomplishments at the president’s State of the Union address, which is set to air tonight at 6 p.m. PST.