Police officers sometimes find themselves on unfamiliar beats. So it was that Major Darren Grimshaw, a 27-year veteran of the Burlington, Iowa Police Department, found himself in a middle-school classroom several years ago, explaining his career choice to a roomful of sixth-graders taking part in PIECES, the city’s afterschool program.
“I volunteered to do it, and I realized how much I enjoyed interacting with the kids in that role,” Grimshaw said, adding that it’s what “hooked” him on his long-time involvement with afterschool programs — first locally, and now at the state and national levels.
Grimshaw didn’t plan to take this commitment to ever-widening audiences. But as a gifted public speaker and a recent graduate of the White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship at Furman University in South Carolina, he’s learned to leverage his belief in the importance of partnerships between police and afterschool programs. As a former patrol officer and detective, he brought a much-appreciated perspective to the fellowship, which placed him with 14 education professionals from across the country for a 10-month immersion into afterschool and expanded learning policy.
“He’s a unique pick, and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have him,” said Cathy Stevens, program director for the fellowship.
In addition to his law enforcement and juvenile justice background, Grimshaw brought significant understanding of the funding and implementation of local afterschool programs to his classmates. After two years volunteering with PIECES, which is funded through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, he was invited to join the Burlington district’s afterschool advisory board. Two years ago, after accompanying students to a legislative breakfast in Des Moines, he attracted the attention of the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, one of 50 statewide afterschool networks funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. He now serves on that board, as well.
Grimshaw’s boss, Doug Beaird, chief of the Burlington Police Department, has backed his involvement with afterschool activities from the beginning.
“Doug believes that, if you build trust with the community, we all benefit. He’s really encouraged us to become more engaged with the community outside normal police practices,” Grimshaw said.
“Those interactions are key to community policing,” said Beaird. “We believe the longer you can keep a child in an educational setting, the less time they have to be part of detrimental behavior. It’s a true ‘win-win’ for the community and the department.”
“Afterschool programs give kids a safe place to be — and a place where we can reach out and begin to break down some of those barriers that exist between the department and the neighborhoods,” said Grimshaw.
After speaking as part of a roundtable discussion on community partnerships at an afterschool conference in Texas, Grimshaw connected with Jody Grant, director of the Afterschool Alliance, a longtime Mott grantee. Intrigued with the Burlington model, Grant asked Grimshaw how the Alliance might make it easier for law enforcement officials to partner with afterschool programs on a national scale.
“That conversation reminded me that, through the FBI’s National Academy, I have an instant connection with law enforcement agencies in almost every state,” said Grimshaw, who graduated from the academy’s professional development course several years ago. Graduates — known as FBI National Academy Associates — actively work to cooperate across state and national borders.
In October, Grimshaw, Beaird and Grant addressed the executive board of the FBI National Academy, proposing a possible partnership that would link associates with statewide afterschool networks.
Grimshaw now is turning his attention to the challenges of delivering high-quality afterschool programs in Iowa’s rural communities, where transportation costs often curtail a district’s ability to provide programming.
“He has a very realistic view of policy work,” says Stevens of the hard-working Grimshaw. “What drives Darren is personal passion.”