Officer Chad Leetham, South Salt Lake
The following was submitted by Aaron Wilson.
“Officer Chad Leetham intentionally spends each moment finding ways to better the lives of students and their families in the community of South Salt Lake.
Chad joined our staff on a school bus as we toured the community centers and homes within our school boundaries. With tears in his eyes, he recounted the night he was working when a young refugee girl died. Since that night over 8 years ago, he has been an integral part of our city’s Collective Impact effort that has created these community centers. As a result, youth crime in the afternoon hours has dropped by over 30% because youth have safe places to be engaged instead of on the streets.
This year, Chad has been exceptional in his efforts to target at-risk students and families, helping them take steps to enjoy a better quality of life. This includes recognizing two girls in our school who became homeless this year, and leading the charge to find them housing, arranging for food, transportation and hygiene care. Most notable was how his family took this family in for Christmas dinner, sponsoring gifts for the family so they could enjoy the holidays, even though they didn’t have a home to live in.
Working closely with administrators, Chad recognizes students in need of Tier III interventions, be they at risk of gang activity, drug use, or other factors. Officer Leetham not only responds in a caring, compassionate manner to students on the other side of the law, but also takes on a proactive role in preventing these behaviors, meeting with families to educate them of risk factors, empowering parents to know how to support their children. There are countless times when Chad has called a struggling parent, inviting them to come to school or visiting their home in person, encouraging them in their role as parent, and empowering them with ability to help their students succeed.
I see Chad in the hallways greeting all students, but particularly building relationships with students he knows are getting pulled in directions with gangs. To combat students who feel disconnected with school, Officer Leetham created with our counselor an advisory class that meets with students twice a week. With their parents’ permission, Chad leads “real” discussions that help these youth reflect on life choices that bring success.
More than the work he does with our students and their parents, Chad is a great ambassador to all who walk through our school door s. He often joins groups who tour our school, speaking to the reality of Collective Impact. He was an integral component to planning and executing a community Veterans Day event, reaching out to family members of fallen alumni soldiers, inviting them and offering them a ride to our event so they could be appropriately honored for their departed kin’s sacrifice.
In these and every other effort, Chad conducts himself professionally, positively, generating trust and respect for not only himself, but also to the mantle of police officer in general.
Chad not only magnifies his mantle as police officer in the way described above, but he also volunteers at the South Salt Lake Police Athletic League in mentoring and coaching young men and women how to box, how to live healthy lifestyles, and how to replace negative activities with positive ones.
Chad stays late at school after hours to meet with guests visiting our school. He contributes to school events in being willing to dance at school dances, organize our Veterans Day event and call families of fallen World War II soldiers to offer them a ride to our memorial production. This, coupled with him setting up flags to honor our Veterans and teach students the values of which our flag is emblematic, make Chad’s approach to his job 24/7. He is always looking for ways to teach youth, improve others’ quality of life, whether he is “on the clock” or off it.”