The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (DPS) is taking new steps to forge stronger bonds with the community, especially the younger generation.
In mid-June, the department launched its Bigs in Blue program in conjunction with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern California. It was a launch that was two years in the making.
“We were looking for just a different avenue to reach the community, better public relations with police and the community,” said DPS Lieutenant Jose Ramirez. “The LA Rams and LAPD…hooked up with the Big Brothers Big Sisters in LA. They basically formed the Bigs in Blue, officers with mentees in the inner city. I was like, ‘if they’re doing it, how come we can’t do it over here?’”
Ramirez is the driving force behind the Bigs in Blue program, which officially launched in Sunnyvale on June 11. He did it because he has personal experience with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“This is my second time around. I was a big brother…about 22 years [ago],” said Ramirez. “I signed up for the Big Brother program and my Little is still in my life. We still have a relationship.”
“I’ve had an opportunity to share a lot of lifetime moments with [my Little] and he’s like a family member,” said Ramirez. “To my own kids, he’s Uncle Ricky, so he’s been a family member for several years and really pleased with the program.”
Skye Christensen, the Director of Communications for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area, says the Bigs in Blue program was launched to help form stronger bonds between the community and civil servants like police officers and firefighters.
“The kids and the families are excited. They feel like they’re really getting insider access into the work and it’s exciting for them,” said Christensen. “If you think about how excited children get about seeing a police car or a fire engine, the fact that they get to be with these officers and really get up close to the work that they do is exciting.”
“It feels good because you really get to talk to them, have fun with them and that makes me happy and it also makes them happy,” said Jorge Miranda Guadarrama, a mentee in the program.
“It helps us stay level, grounded and it helps us know our community,” said Nelson Williams, a Public Service Officer with DPS.
Sunnyvale DPS has six officers participating in the program at the moment, but Lieutenant Ramirez isn’t satisfied just yet.
“The goal is to double those numbers in the next couple of months using this launch information and hopefully springboard it to other cities,” said Ramirez. “We want to expand the program to other agencies, locally. Instead of just being known as the Sunnyvale Bigs in Blue, I would hope in maybe a few months or even a year [to be] known as the Northern California Bigs in Blue, really establish a foothold on the mentoring program. I think it’s very valuable. I’ve seen it firsthand the success it has had.”
Ramirez hasn’t just launched the program, but he is involved as well. He’s taken on a Little Brother of his own, David.
“It’s impactful. We’re changing lives,” said Ramirez.