Meet ‘The Doers Of The World’
For David Partrick and Dennis Youngren, being a police officer means knowing the community you serve.
That sometimes means going above and beyond the call.
Both Partrick and Youngren are part of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Northwest Florida. And last month, both officers were honored within the program for their commitment and dedication to their little brothers — or “littles” as they’re called. Partrick was recognized at the 2020 Bigs with Badges Big of the Year and Youngren as the 2020 Santa Rosa County Big of the Year.
At their separate, surprise ceremonies, each officer graciously accepted the praise. But it’s hardly the reason they signed up.
“When I became a police officer, I saw kids out in the community and it opened my eyes,” said Pensacola Police Officer Partrick. “I wanted to take them out of certain situations. I thought, ‘what can I do?’”
So, five years ago, he and his wife, Jennifer, joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida’s Bigs with Badges program.
For Youngren, signing up as a big brother was a way of paying it forward.
“I had mentors growing up in the church and in the local police department in the southside of Chicago,” said the Gulf Breeze police officer. “They were setting examples and helped me follow my dream.”
Serving the community
Being a big brother means having difficult conversations. That’s even more true now as tensions rise between law enforcement and communities as protests continue against police brutality and systemic racism.
Partrick and his little brother, 10-year-old Kamari, have sat down and talked about the death of George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody. He said he told Kamari that not all police officers are bad.
“I told him we don’t stand up for that police officer,” Partrick said.
Partrick has had “the talk” with Kamari. The same talk many parents with black or brown children have. It’s the talk about racism and what to do when you’re approached by law enforcement.
“I realize it’s different for Kamari. He’ll be a teenager soon and that worries me,” he said.
“I think it’s important to see the person behind the badge. It changes the whole complex of the community. Now, more than ever, it’s important for law enforcement to be involved.”
Those talks have resonated with Kamari.
“Stay away from bad guys, say no to drugs, and if you see an officer, tell them you know David Partrick,” Kamari said when asked what he’s learned from his big brother.
Partrick recalls stopping a young black man late at night while on duty early in his career. What may have looked suspicious turned out to be a man walking to the nearby convenience store. Partrick said the young man told him he had been stopped several times, he almost expected it.
“He said to me, ‘Can I tell you something? You were kind to me,’” Partrick recalled. “It opened my eyes.”
Being a big has also opened his eyes to the life and struggles of people in Kamari’s neighborhood, where officers are typically called to respond to gun violence.
Kamari has been a part of the Partrick family for five years now. And early on, he asked about racism — why he was treated differently. Partrick told him to fight hate with love.
“I told him to love them and make it harder for them to hate you,” he said. “And don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something.”
Youngren said he knows it can be hard for officers to get lost in their work and forget the “human side” of their job. He says his time with his little, 10-year-old Roman, reminds him why he took a job in law enforcement.
“There’s a shield around us that can be off-putting,” he said. “But that’s not who we are. I have a son just about Roman’s age. We’re not just someone riding around in a police car. I don’t know one officer who doesn’t love his community.”
Being a Big
Youngren joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida 2 ½ years ago and was matched with Roman, who lives with his older sister and her family. He said he approached the program the same way he approached becoming a stepdad.
“I’m not here to replace anybody,” he said. “But I want to help raise and guide him to become the person he wants to be.”
Roman said his favorite things to do with Officer Youngren are fishing and going to hockey games. Every time Youngren comes to pick him up, he’s “excited.” It took some time for Roman to open up, Youngren said he took him to a hockey game to “break up the awkwardness.”
“His eyes just lit up,” he said. “I was excited to show him something I love. When we go somewhere, I try to show him something new like the USS Alabama or the C130s at Hurlburt Field.”
Now that the awkward period is long over, they bond. Roman also enjoys playing with Youngren’s 11-year-old biological son.
“Roman is an extension of my family,” Youngren said.
The same goes for Partrick, who has been a big brother to Kamari for five years. Partrick said Kamari is “like a son to me.” Kamari spends weekends at his house, goes on family vacations to Arkansas, when he has games (Kamari plays football, baseball, and basketball), Partrick is usually watching from the stands.
Partrick said he believes Big Brothers Big Sisters has made him a better police officer. And he encourages more officers to sign up.
“The impact goes both ways,” he said. “And that’s what we need in this world. How can you serve and protect a community if you’re not involved in it? We owe it to ourselves to be the doers of the world.”