On Thursday, September 29, the Long Beach Post hosted an event to honor young people from around the city who are doing great things to better their community and beyond. Out of hundreds of nominations from our readers, judges chose 40 winners, representing a range of professions and activism. The Post will be profiling each honoree in the coming days.
Now more than ever, it seems the city needs someone like 35-year-old Jason Lehman.
When the Huntington Beach resident isn’t serving the community as a police officer working in the "Community Engagement" division for the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), he is the executive director of the nonprofit Why’d You Stop Me. The program is meant to educate both the public and police officers on how to interact with each other and ultimately understand one another in new ways, ultimately increasing safety.
“This education is so necessary in such a diverse city like Long Beach, but it's truly a vital message that needs to be spread nationwide,” Lehman said. “I am proud to say that I developed this nationally recognized program in the city of Long Beach with the help of the members of our Long Beach Community.”
The program, which has been endorsed by US Senate candidate and state Attorney General Kamala Harris as a “best practice for reducing acts of violence between the police and the community,” provides talks to youth and other community members as well as training for law enforcement.
Lehman began the program in 2011 after a conversation with a group of Poly High School students who seemed limited in their understanding of police procedures, as well as confused as to why they were always getting stopped.
“I learned so much from that one speaking engagement and it lead me to where I am today,” Lehman said. “It was at that time I truly realized the need for an educational platform to explain what issues are shared between police and the public in the City of Long Beach.”
Lehman said he credits the success of the program to the support he receives from law enforcement peers and supervisors as well as community members who teach alongside him and the WYSM board of directors, and his girlfriend for her support of him as he takes on 60 to 70 hour work weeks.
“The WYSM organization is so much bigger than me,” Lehman said. “I am just glad I have been blessed with the tools to help others see the importance of increased cooperation and the necessity of having trust when dealing with authority figures.”
This story was updated on October 18 at 9:25AM with information on Lehman's residence and job title. A previous version stated Lehman was a Long Beach resident and was working with the LBPD's directed enforcement team.