Civilian Employee of the Year 2018
Gang Outreach Specialist Matthew Baker
Matt Baker has been an employee of the Lincoln Police Department since October 2015, assigned as the Gang Outreach Specialist assigned to the Criminal Investigations Gang Unit. Matt's primary responsibility is to coordinate the Operation Tipping Point gang outreach referral program. This program was created in 2014 as an outreach program for youth, ages eleven to fifteen, who exhibit at-risk behaviors consistent with current or potential gang affiliation.
Over the past year, Matt has exemplified the core values of the Lincoln Police Department - Life, Empowerment, Accountability, Dedication, Education and Respect - in every aspect of his job. He also works to pass along these values to the youth he reaches. He is always willing to flex his hours worked to ensure the program and youths' needs are met, frequently working long hours and weekends, sacrificing family and free time.
Matt is responsible for being the liaison between the Lincoln Police Department, Tipping Point and approximately twenty Tipping Point partners, meeting with the youth - or, as Matt affectionately refers to them as his "kids" - on a regular basis, documenting and tracking their progress. In 2017, Matt's creativity, focus and hard work made Tipping Point more efficient and allowed him to reach more youth in a more productive way. He proactively identified that he was only able to reach a limited number of kids through the referral program, based on availability of resources and the total working hours. He utilized the strong relationships he had built with the community partners of Tipping Point to develop new and creative ways to reach more kids through basketball, clubs and group meetings within LPS.
He worked with Park Middle School and the Belmont Rec Center to create open gym basketball one night a week. This activity not only created a safe environment for positive activity, but also gave Matt the opportunity to interact with the kids, promote the Tipping Point message and provide the kids an opportunity for individual time with Matt to speak about things that may be occurring in their lives. Adding this activity has enabled Matt to reach an estimated 25-35 kids at each event per week.
Matt was asked by one of the schools to help coordinate a Tipping Point club, based upon the positive impact he was having at that particular school. During these weekly club meetings, Matt works alongside the school social worker to meet with five students, talk about challenges occurring in the kids' lives and discuss life skills, including decision making and the impact their choice of friends can have. Through the success of this pilot club, Matt formed clubs in three additional schools during the second semester of the 2017-2018 school year, giving him the opportunity to reach 20-30 more kids on a weekly basis.
Matt also worked with his kids in the program to help get them set up with jobs over the 2017 summer break. He helped connect the kids with different employers and completing job applications - both things many would not otherwise have had assistance with. Six obtained detasseling jobs and five more were able to land part time jobs. These opportunities provided the kids with opportunities to obtain work experience, provide financial assistance for their families and provide activity as opposed to idle time, which could have led to boredom and potential trouble. Additionally, Matt partnered with the YMCA and LPS to enroll twelve kids in summer athletic camps, teams and after-school conditioning. Matt also arranged for tutoring through LPS or after-school programs for five other kids.
As one can see, Matt has not only accomplished the job tasks expected of him, but he has flourished in his role, surpassing the expectations of his peers and supervisors. His unparalleled drive has impacted the lives of countless youth who may otherwise have chosen a different life path. His part in the effort to reduce gang activity in the Lincoln area has been critical in reducing the number of kids being affected by gang activity and affiliation. The Awards Committee recognizes that he is a positive role model for the youth in our community through the effort, passion and commitment he's displayed on a daily basis, and is proud to name Matthew Baker as the 2018 LPD Civilian Employee of the Year.