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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2013

Officer Love

At a time when many adults have given up on kids in the central city — or even fear them — it’s good to know that some grown folks continue to believe in all of Toledo’s young people. And it’s especially encouraging when those pushing them to succeed are police officers.

As part of the Toledo Police Department’s Police Probation Team, Officer Flo Wormely and her partner, Officer Byron Daniels, work with as many as 150 young people every year — diverting them from courts into community service projects, taking young men into prisons for heart-to-heart talks with inmates, organizing basketball teams for middle schoolers, and running summer tutoring programs as part of the STRIVE program that Ms. Wormely founded. Students in the program achieve some of the city’s highest Ohio Graduation Test scores.

“Arresting kids isn’t always the answer,’’ Ms. Wormely told The Blade’s editorial page. “We need to help kids change and succeed.”

That’s not what most people would expect a police officer to say, but the community is better for her work. Preventing young people from making poor choices is more practical than punishing them after the fact.

Last week, Ms. Wormely, who is sometimes called “Officer Love,’’ was honored as this area’s “Best Community Leader” in comedian and radio host Steve Harvey’s annual Local Neighborhood Awards competition — better known as the Hoodie Awards.

The 11 other local winners include Best School Teacher Felicia Dunston of Robinson Junior High and Best School Coach Earl Morris of Rogers High School. People and businesses were nominated for Local Neighborhood Awards by listeners of WJUC FM107.3.

Local winners will compete in a national online contest. The five top vote-getters will be honored Aug. 8 to 11 at the 2013 Ford Neighborhood Awards in Las Vegas.

The Hoodies recognize leaders in urban communities. Whether or not she wins, Officer Wormely will continue to set a worthy example, not only for youths but also other police officers and adults, by encouraging young people to rise above their circumstances and achieve.

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