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LAWMAN

FOR THE

LORD

A COP’S QUEST TO PROTECT AND EMPOWER AMERICAN YOUTH BY MICHAEL LIZARRAGA

It was a cop of whom Jesus said, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matt. 8:5-10); a cop who was the first to declare Christ the Son of God at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:39); a cop who first paved the way for Gentile believers (Acts 10). Clearly police officers have an important role to play in God’s precinct, and modern-day Corneliuses who carry both badge and cross are needed now more than ever. One such faithful enforcer is Tony Newsom, a 16-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran and Christian cop combating crime through community involvement. His focus: teaching youth how to avoid becoming predator or prey. “Kids are primary targets for criminals and gangsters wishing to either harm or recruit them, especially ones in lowerclass neighborhoods who can be as young as 6,” says Newsom. “It’s my job to show these kids just where an addiction to crime can lead.” Newsom’s approach to fighting the “bad guys” is to nurture the “good guys” in young people. He became an L.A.P.D. juvenile detective in 1992 after three years on the force, then an active participant in the department’s popular youth intervention program, Jeopardy. Since 1990, L.A.P.D.’s Jeopardy has offered children a range of activities—from sports to tutor-

ing—as alternatives to street life. The program reaches and redirects kids who share their L.A. neighborhoods with some 50,000 gang members and a pervasive drug culture, and whose parents are in many case substance abusers. Newsom immediately instituted Jeopardy in his own police division,West Valley, where he served as a martial arts instructor for the program. His involvement with Jeopardy ended up altering his spiritual life in a way he could not have foreseen. Invited to church by one of his program volunteers, Newsom committed his life to Christ in April 1994. “I feel privileged as an authority for Christ,” says Newsom, citing Romans 13:1-4, “whether bearing the sword (gun), demonstrating kindness, or a combination of both.” Resigning from fulltime officer work in 1994 to serve as a reserve officer and a minister, Newsom began shepherding various projects for nonprofit organizations such as Cross & Switchblade, a ministry evangelizing youth in L.A.’s most troubled neighborhoods, and H.O.P.E. for Kids. Newsom rejoined the L.A.P.D. full time in 2003 and currently serves in the community relations section, Pacific Division, where he was recently appointed as the new developer/coordinator for Jeopardy. He has instituted a new

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The books also include tips for high school and college students on how to escape the temptations that lead to physical and spiritual distress. “As a Christian officer, I want not only to teach America to stay safe but also to protect its spiritual and moral values and to restore purity into the minds and hearts of our young people.” Africare has joined with Newsom to help distribute the books, with a goal to get them into the hands of 1 million children. Top 10 Crimes also deals with domestic violence, containing a 34-page summary that explains domestic abuse in great detail. Based on a true crime story, this segment will help women and children understand what they need to know about domestic violence and how to free themselves from what Newsom calls an “invisible prison.” Although Newsom says that his overall experience as a cop has been nothing short of “beautiful”—he quotes Psalm 106:3, saying “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right”—he doesn’t deny the challenges of interacting with those he intercepts. According to Top 10 Crimes, an average of 46 murders, 257 rapes, 1,143 robberies, and 2,364 aggravated assaults are committed in the U.S. every day. Cops need to protect not only the lives of citizens but also own their faith; “street justice” or an ends-justifies-the-means attitude can feel legitimate in a world ruled by violence. “Whether on or off duty, it can be tempting for me to deal with certain suspects in more aggressive ways, especially when someone harms a woman or child,” admits Newsom. “But God’s love and my knowledge of the penalties for me crossing the line keep me from using unnecessary force.” God used law enforcement officers to help the apostle Paul when he was in jail (Acts 16:33-34), to rescue him from a mob (Acts 23:24), and to save him from a shipwreck (Acts 27:43). Likewise God is using 21st-century centurion Tony Newsom for something extraordinary—mentoring kids and nurturing a safe environment for all of us. A godly guardian wearing a breastplate of both steel and righteousness, Newsom is a reminder that lawmen for the Lord are held in deep regard by their divine captain. ■

website—Pacific Area’s Resource and Monitoring System (PacRam.com)—so the people in his community have roundthe-clock access to all youth and other services provided by the department. Newsom also leads the division’s Law Enforcement Explorer program, teaching teens what it means to be a police officer and how to train to become one. “The program’s not just for those wanting to become police officers, but for sharpening kids for life,” explains Newsom. “Because they must abide by certain rules and regulations, some of our kids leave or are asked to leave because of disciplinary problems. The ones that stay, however, usually end up in college or succeeding in a profession.” Africare for Safer Schools and Communities (africare911. com), a nonprofit group for mentoring and educating lowerincome children on safety awareness, is currently partnering with Newsom and juvenile hall experts to create an exclusive intervention and redirection program for all L.A. county first-time offenders between the ages of 6 and 12. According to Newsom, these children’s crimes are usually either theft or “dry runs” for drug dealers, which can earn them $50 to $60. “Africare’s intervention program will be from county to county and will help get to the root causes of some of these young kids’ crimes, such as having a bipolar disorder or little or no food at home,” says Newsom. “Once we assess their situation, we can help them accordingly.” Beyond instructing youth on how to avoid becoming perpetrators, Newsom also teaches them how to avoid becoming victims. Applying his years of experience as a cop in one of America’s most dangerous cities (as well as his experience growing up in L.A.’s notorious South Central section), Newsom recently released two books, Top 10 Crimes (top 10crimes.com) and Student Safety Tips (studentsafetytips.com), in which he educates students, parents, teachers, and the general public on the kind of crimes that take us unaware. These include internet child seduction, child abduction, and date rape. Available in age-specific as well as Spanish-language and Christian versions, the books are a CSI-style roadmap for living safer lives, with analogies, testimonies, and insights from a variety of convicted criminals concerning what they look for when seeking potential victims and basic actions that can make people safer. “Out of all the [incarcerated] criminals I asked to speak with for my book, only 10 percent of them agreed to an interview. The ones I did sit down with would become reluctant and immediately accuse me of judging them as I asked them questions about their crimes, some of them being child molesters or internet prowlers,” says Newsom. “Then I would mention that these books could save someone close to them, perhaps their own sister or daughter.They would think about it, then go ahead with the interview.”

Michael Lizarraga is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who, as a teen, benefited from the L.A.P.D.’s Law Enforcement Explorer program.

Blessed are they who maintain justice. PSALM 106:3

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Lawman for the Lord  

Meet an L.A.P.D. cop who uses badge and cross to keep youth from becoming either predators or prey.