Written By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.
For many years, police officers have been portrayed in a negative light by the media. This image has caused many to lose faith and trust in the ones who are meant to serve and protect. Despite this, Sergeant (Sgt.) Jeremy Lahar is on a mission to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community through his children’s book “Officer Friendly Takes on Scary Police.”
Sergeant Lahar grew up in Studewood with his mom and his sister. His father was not around, and life was rough for him and his family, as they had to endure many obstacles. One of these obstacles was not having a car. “We didn’t have a car, so we were on Metro and there was a lot of walking and riding bikes,” he reflected. He even rode his bike to his first job interview and used the money from that job to buy his first car. Sgt. Lahar knows the importance of hard work and does not take anything that he has learned or gone through for granted. “When you grow up without, it makes you appreciate everything. I take all my experiences growing up and the things I had to learn from the neighborhood as a blessing and it makes me appreciate everything.”
Sgt. Lahar graduated from Reagan High School in 2005, Morningside University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications and received his Master’s in Communications from Walden University in 2016. After graduating from Morningside University, he couldn’t find a job. He initially wanted to pursue work in radio, but through an internship, he saw the lack of stability with people getting laid off and that deterred him. With the need for stability, he received his teaching certification and found his love working with kids. Sgt. Lahar uses his life experiences to help the kids he mentors. He wants them to know that they “do not have to be a victim of their circumstances.”
His passion for working with young children inspired him to start his own nonprofit called the “Houston Prestige Project.” The purpose of the nonprofit was to address a certain age group of young men ranging from eight to eighteen years of age. “That’s where I felt like I was most influential and could have been swayed to go left or right,” he reflected. Since he had to figure out a lot of stuff on his own, he wants to be that source of guidance for kids and expose them to things they may not be exposed to in a positive way. He also wants to introduce kids to people that are successful and look like them, so they can identify with them and see past their current circumstance.
As a child, his relationship with police wasn’t good. “I was scared of them and the only time I saw them was when they came and took people to jail, sometimes my friends to jail.” It wasn’t until high school when his perception changed towards officers, as one of his high school football coaches worked as an officer for the Houston Police Department. “He took me under his wing and just taught me a lot about being a young man…pushed me on the field and watched me grow up in four years. I call him my godfather, and I call him pops.”
One day, after trying to figure out his next move regarding his career path, he met with his godfather for advice. He godfather mentioned how good he would be as a police officer and stated, “I know why you don’t want to do it because your old man worked in law enforcement and wasn’t around, but I think you would genuinely be good at it because you see people for people, and you know how to talk to people and you like helping people. He listened to his godfather and now Sgt. Lahar has been in law enforcement for ten years. He has “been fortunate and blessed enough to work in the capacity of Community Outreach,” and enjoys talking to kids and people, educating them, relating to them, and just building relationships.”
It was his love for law enforcement, his childhood and life experiences and his vision from God that inspired him to write “Officer Friendly Takes on Scary Police.” I feel like a lot of time we take for granted these ideas and dreams that are put in our head. It was an idea that was loud. I tried to ignore it and put it off,” he stated. After going back and forth about the book, he put his ideas on paper and once he started, he couldn’t stop. Another reason why he wanted to write the book was due to the lack of representation of our black youth in children’s books, and the representation of law enforcement in a positive way. Sgt. Lahar made it known that “the only time people see an image of officers is on the news when it is something negative, or in the neighborhood when they come and take someone to jail.” He further mentioned that kids might get lucky, and have officers come talk to them in class, but asked the question, “Are they just going through the motions or is it somebody they can relate to?
He wanted to create a minority main character that kids could identify with, and teach them things about gun safety, bullying, stranger danger, and the appropriate time to call 911. He wanted to attack all these topics in a way that kids could connect with.
When discussing building the bridge between law enforcement and the community, Sgt. Lahar believes that communication is a tool that can help bridge the gap. “There will always be a need for law enforcement, but a lot of incidents can be avoided if there is not that fear there, and clear and concise communication is present,” he stated. It is through books like the one he has created that will help “improve those relationship on the adolescent level all the way up to when they grow up and we have to deal with them as adults.”
The message that Sgt. Lahar wants kids to take away from his book “is that police are okay and that there are police officers that look like him and they are not all bad.” He wants them to not get caught up on the message that is framed in the media because “they don’t show the good stuff as much as they show the bad stuff.”
Sgt. Lahar is passionate about the work he does and is always in the community and in classrooms speaking to people and kids. He concluded stating, “If they take that message out of a class of 30 and I get two of them to not be afraid and come speak to me when they see me in person, it’s worth it.”