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Oklahoma City officers changing lives through gang intervention program

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Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit is shown at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit is shown at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]

Lt. Wayland Cubit doesn’t have to go far to show the successes he’s had in the past decade working troubled youth and other children who are disadvantaged.

On a cold February day, Cubit pulled his phone out and opened a video where he can be heard talking to a boy in the throes of a tantrum. For several minutes, the boy can be seen crying, yelling and kicking chairs as Cubit works to get through to him. That was less than a year ago, when such behavior was common for the boy.

Now, in another room at the Northeast Community Center, the boy can be seen playing quietly with his brother on a day schools closed because of the cold.

For the last decade, Cubit has worked to guide the lives of children through the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Family Awareness and Community Teamwork program.

Also known as FACT, the program started as a gang intervention program for Oklahoma City youth from 10 to 17 years old. Getting to children early before they are influenced by the pressures of the street is key, Cubit said, but making sure they’re getting connected to positive, caring adults as mentors allows the program to flourish.

“Most of the kids that we deal with are from a lower socio-economic status,” Cubit said. “They live in some of the most difficult ZIP codes to thrive in.”

“So, the officers really get to help them navigate through these opportunities and obstacles that are sometimes systematic. The educational things, the health things, the things that brought about poverty. We see the barriers and the opportunity gaps for them … they are the same as our kids, minus the opportunity.”

In years past, Cubit said officers would visit a metro-area school asking if any children were interested in mentors. A few hands would go up here and there back then, but today, word of the program’s success has spread and “every hand goes up,” Cubit said.

On any given week, Cubit and fellow officers will work with up to 100 children. Once a week they hold a character-building night in northeast Oklahoma City. Another night they host the same program in south Oklahoma City. First-time offenders come for a juvenile intervention program one night a week, while FACT hosts a youth leadership academy once a month.

In communities where some might be distrustful of police presence, Cubit said any resistance encountered quickly goes away.

“It gave an opportunity to talk, gave an opportunity to tell them what we wanted to do,” Cubit said. “Almost every kid here is referred to us from somebody in the community, be it a teacher, a parent, grandmother, guardian, somebody like that has referred the kid … it’s been received well by the adults and the kids.”

Cubit used to think of success in the program as trying to make sure every child made it to college and started a family. Years of experience have led him to change his definition. For one child, making good grades during the school year is a success; for another it might be making it through the end of high school without getting into trouble.

He wants kids to make good decisions, but what truly motivates him is removing obstacles that leave the children behind.

“When we give the kids the opportunity, we see them thrive. We’ve got too many stories where we removed the obstacle, the kid did great,” Cubit said. “But without us, who would have been there to remove the obstacle? Who would have even been there to even identify the obstacle?”

Ultimately, by removing the obstacle, those disadvantaged children should be able to achieve the same goals as those from better “ZIP codes,” Cubit said.

“If they make good decisions and good choices just like the other kids from other ZIP codes, they should get the same result. I want to remove any obstacle that they didn’t create for themselves.”

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit interacts with two boys shooting basketballs at Northeast Community Center.  [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit interacts with two boys shooting basketballs at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2eefdb522b8589ae20e8ce94cce117da.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit interacts with two boys shooting basketballs at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit interacts with two boys shooting basketballs at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit interacts with two boys shooting basketballs at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-72d9b6dc8f4a17290684af793b295b8b.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit is shown at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit is shown at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City police Lt. Wayland Cubit is shown at Northeast Community Center. [Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
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