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Prosecutor, officers talk to PAL kids about path to success

Growing up in Atlantic City, Damon Tyner didn’t think he would be trailblazer. He figured all the “firsts” would be done, he told a group of students at the city’s Police Athletic League. Tyner was wrong. He became the first black prosecutor in Atlantic County, which had 28 prosecutors before him. But at the end of the day, it’s not about being first, he said: “It’s about being the next person who can help someone else.” Tyner and several others in law enforcement talked about their own experiences Thursday, as part of Black History Month.

At the PAL, @ACProsecutor Tyner takes on a foul shot challenge pic.twitter.com/eK61n6E6PR — Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) February 21, 2019

NeeCee Parks said she thought she would be a nurse like her mother. Then, when she found that wasn’t what she wanted, she started working in the casino industry. But it was three ride-alongs with her brother, an officer in Baltimore County, that made her realize her true calling. “I didn’t see a lot of us growing up,” she said of black female officers. “I realized I could be a success story.” Parks picked Atlantic City as the place to serve because “this is where I’m from. This is where I wanted to be.” Being a police officer was the last thing Sgt. Donnell Holland wanted. In his neighborhood, police were not thought of as your friend, he said. But he learned differently. “We’re not the boogie man,” he told the kids.

Detective Parks tells the PAL kids that she was working in the casinos when she did three ride-alongs with her police officer brother and knew what she wanted to do with her life … pic.twitter.com/KhFRVGYr0E — Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) February 21, 2019

“People ask me how I can arrest someone who looks like me,” Tyner said. “I tell them, the victim looks like me, too.” “There are more good officers out there than bad,” Parks said. “All of our ultimate goal is to go home at night.” Detective Kevin Francis, who grew up in Egg Harbor Township, told the kids about the Junior Police Academy that he leads. Detective Schuyler Davis sparked their interest with talk of crime scenes and his work in forensics. Lorenzo Bethea has been coming to the PAL since he was a kid. Now, he’s a regular on the third floor as a city officer. “I’m also a product of PAL,” Chief Henry White said. So is Tyner, who challenged 15-year-old Nasir Morgan to a foul-shooting contest. Morgan — who said he was “a little rusty” — took the win. His dream is to be a basketball player.

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