Tech student wins Distinguished Citizen Award from Cookeville Police Department
Tennessee Tech University student Jamaal “JT” Thompson of Hendersonville was awarded the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Cookeville Police Department at the September meeting of the Cookeville City Council meeting.
Police Chief Randy Evans presented the award while explaining that he and Thompson, a graduate assistant in the College of Education, had met in late 2020 when the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers spurred conversations about police officers and their relationships with communities of color.
“I met this young man and he asked smart questions, and I knew those questions deserved answers,” said Chief Evans during the award presentation. “We talked about community policing and what I really found out through conversations with him and others is that there was a demographic that we were not reaching, and that was some of our student population.”
Their discussions turned to the idea of using the Cookeville Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy and turning it into a for-credit college course at Tech. The goal for the class would be to attract students who are culturally different from most members of the Cookeville Police Department.
“I started making some phone calls and before I could ever gain any traction, I get a phone call back from this young man who said he already had it worked out,” Chief Evans said. “He had already convinced Dr. Julie Baker to facilitate the class.”
It was around this time that Thompson also helped found the student organization Center of Diversity Education (CODE), and when the first class with the Cookeville Police Department was confirmed for Spring 2021, he personally contacted students to encourage them to enroll. The class is now in its fourth semester, with many students returning even after they complete the course to continue their relationships with the officers.
“I am extremely blessed and humbled to receive this honor,” said Thompson. “I would like to thank my entire CODE family, Chief Evans and the entire Cookeville Police Department, and Dr. Julie Baker (associate dean in the College of Education) for her constant guidance and support in my life. So many people came together to create something beautiful in hopes to change lives, and none of this would be possible without them. I am both grateful and lucky to have them all in my life.”
Thompson also won the prestigious Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship Award from the Ohio Valley Conference back in 2021 for his impact on the community through his work with CODE. It is one of the highest single-season honors the conference offers to student-athletes.
“This young man had the opportunity become jaded and to be negative,” said Chief Evans, “But instead he took the opportunity to learn more about law enforcement. He took the opportunity to help our community and that's what he's done. Through that relationship, we now have a relationship with many of our minority students on campus.”