When a teenage mother was in danger of losing her home because it was not painted, Great Bend Police Chief Dean Akings worked alongside other high school students to help paint her house. Now the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association has recognized the role Akings plays in programs for the community’s youth by presenting him with the Law Enforcement Administrator of the Year Award.
Award recipients were honored at a banquet hosted by school officers from across the state, said Officer Mark Bretches, the Great Bend Police Department’s youth coordinator and school liaison officer. Bretches and two other GBPD officers nominated Chief Akings for his "continued commitment and support of Great Bend’s DARE program, and for his involvement in nearly a dozen other youth-related projects sponsored by the City."
The nomination letter notes Akings has attended almost all of the 84 Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduations over the last 14 years. DARE students participate in an essay writing contest, and the chief accompanies the winning essay students and their teachers to a "Night on the Town," where they are treated to a meal at Applebee’s and receive recognition from the mayor. Afterward, he sends a personalized letter congratulating each essay winner.
"DARE is not the only benefactor of the chief’s support," Bretches said. "In addition to all of his duties as chief, he is also heavily involved with America’s Promise third-grade mentoring program, the middle school Youth Academy, the High School Youth Forum, the College to Community Day, the Adult Academy and the I Make a Difference classroom visits with the local radio station."
The young mother whose house needed painting was a member of Youth Forum, which gives high school students at the Alternative Learning Center an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about community issues that directly relate to them. Akings and other community leaders meet twice a month with ALC students for rap sessions. The students choose the topics and the adults facilitate the discussion.
When the Great Bend City Council wanted to establish a curfew ordinance, it was Akings who met with the high school students and helped them draft an ordinance with their suggestions and input. He later commented that the students drafted a curfew that was more strict than the council’s original proposal.
One year, after the Christmas lights in a Great Bend park were vandalized, Akings helped recruit high school students to assist with putting up the lights in the following years. "The students worked side by side with the chief and other city leaders and developed much pride in what they had accomplished," Bretches said. "Because the students worked so hard at installing the displays, during that season, and for years after, the vandalism dropped to practically nothing."
The nominating letter mentions several other ways that Akings personally gets involved in programs for youths, and one event for adults that is close to the chief’s heart. Each year, Akings organizes the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Valor Award Golf Tournament, a fundraiser that allows law enforcement heroes from across the state to receive recognition. That event will take place Friday morning at the Club at Stone Ridge.