Burdened with a reputation for crime and violence, a south Tulsa neighborhood at 61st and Peoria voted to be renamed Hope Valley. No longer on the sidelines of progress, the community is striving to exemplify its new name. At the center of the effort is Tulsa Police Department’s first community resource officer and TU alumnus Amley “Popsey” Floyd (BA ’09).
What is community policing?
“In this particular area, community policing is just being an officer who’s out here daily and understanding that there is crime but including the community in solving crime.” Floyd said. “While we are working on that, let’s be proactive and stop the next generation of kids starting the same crime.”
With antagonism between the police and the public fueling a national debate, Floyd’s ability to make personal connections within the community he protects is vital. Even while attending high school, Floyd experienced the stigma associated with the police. “Growing up in north Tulsa, I was afraid to say I wanted to be a police officer. I was afraid my friends would walk away from me,” Floyd explained.
Donning the badge and vest, Officer Floyd walks through the halls of Marshall Elementary School and McClure Elementary School. Rather than feeling afraid, students high five him. They may recognize him from the bicycle reward program, which provides bikes to students who do well in class. Floyd is also a fixture at Johnson Park. “Sometimes, there are kids just sitting here wishing they had a football or something to throw. We just pull up and throw them a football,” he said.
Floyd does not often use the word “me” because his goals encompass a much greater “we.” “My number one goal is making sure my goals equal what the community wants,” Floyd said. “For years as a police officer, I wanted to come into a community and just reduce crime. That was a win for me, but maybe a win for this community is just having the street lights on.”
Floyd’s position is funded by a community-based crime reduction grant, and the department is discovering that more community involvement is correlated with lower crime. Within two years, the department wants to reduce crime by 30 percent in Hope Valley, and after a mere six months of Floyd’s new position, “We are already seeing 15 to 20 percent sometime 30 percent per month drop in crime. It’s nothing we are doing but what the community is doing,” Floyd said.
Out of 700 officers in his department, Floyd is the only community resource officer, but with enough funding, he is hoping that will change. “Those other 699 officers would love to stop and talk to kids, but sometimes, they don’t get an opportunity because they are going call to call,” Floyd explained.
“I like to make sure that the community knows there are 699 other officers who feel the same way I feel.”
Floyd compares the camaraderie of a close police squad to the way he felt charging down the TU football field with his teammates. “Being a college athlete, you get used to that team unity. I felt it my first day on the ride along,” he said.
Growing up, his talent on the gridiron earned him his nickname. “I had an aunt who saw me hitting kids on the field pretty hard, and she said, ‘He is out there popping people.’” Floyd laughed. The name Popsey followed him throughout sports and into his career.
Overcoming a learning disability
Despite his football scholarship, Floyd’s journey to TU was marked with trepidation due to a learning disability. “I went in with the mindset: It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I’m always going to be behind,” he admitted. Before stepping into the classroom, several professors called him to reassure him that he would get through TU.
“It’s that family and that love that you get when a professor calls and says, ‘I’m not going to start class until you get here,’” he said.
It’s that very message of encouragement that Floyd shares with the Hope Valley community. Residents like 5-year-old Aaliyah Alexander whose life goal was to be a police officer, but Floyd discovered she had a dire cancer diagnosis. “We were able to give her a badge a couple of weeks before she passed away. I look at her pictures daily and carry some inside my vest,” Floyd said. “When I go to work, I think about the opportunities that I have that Officer Aaliyah Alexander didn’t. It makes me cherish putting on my vest.”
Officer Floyd offers the Hope Valley neighborhood the opportunity to raise its voice to improve the community; and as the name suggests, it has ushered in a new feeling — hope.