Research and outreach: OSU-Tulsa research turns into nationally recognized community policing plan
Before Jesse Guardiola was an OSU-Tulsa graduate, a Tulsa Police senior officer, and a winner of the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing, he was a fresh Tulsa Police Department recruit who saw an issue and wanted to make a difference.
“Early on, I saw a divide between Tulsa’s Hispanic community and law enforcement,” Guardiola said.
Guardiola has been with TPD since 1997, serving as the director of community recruitment since 2005. Both as an officer on patrol and as a recruiter in schools, Guardiola noticed members of the Hispanic community actively avoided him and his fellow officers.
“In the cities and villages many immigrants are coming from, they can’t always trust officers – and that conditioning can be passed on through first-generation kids,” Guardiola said. “Combine that with a constant fear of being deported and crimes don’t get reported, criminals aren’t caught and everyone suffers.”
A first-generation American himself, Guardiola understood the cultural resistance in parts of the community and knew he had to demonstrate the good intentions of officers.
In 2010, Guardiola started the Tulsa Police Hispanic Outreach Unit. Leading the effort, Guardiola sought to increase Tulsa Police presence among Hispanic populations in a friendly and committed manner by attending churches and neighborhood events with no mission other than building relationships.
After years of progress, Guardiola saw the divide between his department and the Hispanic community start to close.
“I got phone calls from Spanish-speaking Tulsans all the time,” Guardiola said. “They called me with questions about everything from paying parking tickets to information about serious crimes. That’s how I knew the system was working – they trusted us to help.”
Despite the success over a few years, there was still plenty of work to do.
“The dropout rate for Hispanic-American kids was high. More of Tulsa’s young Hispanics were getting involved with gangs. Cartel activity was going increasingly unchecked. I had to tackle these issues analytically.”
In 2013, Guardiola enrolled at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa to advance his research skills through a master’s degree in Teaching, Learning and Leadership.
“It hasn’t surprised me at all that he’s been so successful,” said Dr. Mary Jo Self, graduate faculty in OSU’s school of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Aviation. “He knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish, took every opportunity to learn as much as he could in his time here, and graduated with not only a degree – but a well-researched plan.”
Guardiola’s focus and drive immediately caught Self’s attention. He chose the option to complete a creative component instead of a thesis and set himself on a path to graduate with a full, research-backed community policing plan for the city, all while still working full time with the Tulsa Police Department.
“Not only was he smart and focused, but he was so friendly and always made a point to seek out and respect the opinions and perspectives of his classmates,” Self said. “Anytime there was a collaborative project, I would hear, ‘I want Jesse in my group.’”
Guardiola’s extensive work and research on community policing then started attracting federal attention. The Department of Justice reached out and requested that he submit his research.
“I was just thankful that I could contribute research to the Department of Justice,” Guardiola said. “So you can imagine my reaction when I got the call telling me I won the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Policing.”
More than 700 state, local and national law enforcement agencies submitted research for the award. In total, 19 officers were honored in three different categories.
In December, the Department of Justice flew Guardiola, his family and then-Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan to Washington, D.C. to accept the award. Now, Guardiola’s community policing model is used in cities across the country.
Despite the spotlight, Guardiola emphasizes the roles of city leaders, Tulsa Police and OSU-Tulsa for their role in his success.
“Great leadership and support made this possible,” he said. “The research skills I cultivated at OSU-Tulsa were paramount in earning this award for Tulsa, and making my city a better place to live.”
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