Overcoming Adversity with Dr. De Lacy Davis | TCOM Champion
We will be starting a new series in which we highlight past TCOM award winners (TCOM Champions) for their work in the TCOM community.
At the 2020 TCOM Conference, De Lacy Davis, EdD, won the TCOM Family Advocate Champion Award for his inspiring leadership in ensuring parents receive the help they need. Dr. Davis was also a keynote for the virtual 2021 TCOM Conference on the topic, “Going Beyond Rhetoric – Transformational & Collaborative Outcomes: The Intersectionality of Then, Now and Tomorrow“. He is the Director for the Family Support Organization of Union County and the Executive Director for the New Jersey Alliance of Family Support Organizations. He is also the founder and still leading the organization, Black Cops Against Police Brutality.
Dr. De Lacy Davis was recently featured on the TCOM podcast, Shift, Shift…Bloom! On this podcast, Dr. Davis shares why he became a cop and his time serving on the force as a black officer in a historically racist institution. Though both his career and his personal life have been marked by tumultuous change, the through line in his story is a commitment to service, honesty, compassion and an innate belief in “doing the right thing” regardless of the consequences. To hear his story in his own words, we invite you to listen:
For 20 years, Dr. De Lacy D. Davis worked in the New Jersey police department. He started off as a police officer, then retired as a sergeant and as a commander of a community services unit. Building from the ground up, they had a police athletic league (which provides recreational and cultural programs designed for inner-city youth) that originally had 150 children; they were able to grow to 2600 youths. They made tremendous progress by raising $1.3 million and reducing juvenile crime by 33%. They increased the number of community-based programs from 12 to 33 by the time Dr. Davis retired.
Charter School Principal
After retiring from the police department, he started a consulting company for leadership training. He was asked by a charter school in Newark, New Jersey to train their staff around leadership. The school ran into issues within its first year of opening and was without a principal. At the risk of getting shut down by the State, the community parents reached out to Dr. Davis to take the position. He hesitantly accepted, and ended up staying for 5 years where they made yearly progress on the “No Child Left Behind” act.
Founding Black Cops Against Police Brutality
In 1991, he founded and is still currently leading the organization Black Cops Against Police Brutality. In the 90s, they would connect with guest speakers for their annual celebration for Kwanzaa, such as Dick Gregory, Reverend Al Sharpton, Dr. Joy DeGruy, Congressman Donald Payne, the rap group Naughty by Nature, and Queen Latifah.
“Before there was a term, we wanted to be culturally competent and we wanted to be culturally relevant,” says Dr. Davis. When Black Cops Against Police Brutality works with other disenfranchised groups, such as Asian and Latin communities, they make sure to partner with local organizations and individuals who can connect culturally with the group.
“While we can all be committed to the struggle and advocating, there are also nuances to various groups, including the black community, and we need to be sensitive to the nuance if we want to be most effective at this work.”
Over time, they have shifted their work from “advocacy in the streets and across the country on behalf of Black, Brown, and disenfranchised peoples”, to now doing academic work for their cause.
Family Support Organization
Dr. De Lacy Davis is the Executive Director for the Family Support Organization of Union County and Plainfield, New Jersey where they provide support, education, and advocacy to parents of children with special needs, children with substance use challenges, and children with juvenile justice system involvement. Dr. Davis has a team of 10, as well as 12 college interns who are in social work, public administration, and occupational therapy assistant programs.
In 2019, Dr. Davis took over as the interim executive director for the New Jersey Alliance of Family Support Organizations (NJFSO). The function of the Alliance, is to coordinate with the statewide network of FSOs (Family Support Organizations) and other family-serving organizations that represent families raising children with emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges. Dr. Davis, along with Jessica Santiago (the program coordinator for the organization), have many responsibilities, which includes:
- Provide half of the certification training for families and partners, including the Family Needs and Strengths (FANS) training, motivational interview training, and action planning. Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC) hosts the other half of the certification training.
- Create and review the annual CQI (continuous quality improvement) survey of all 15 FSOs. The survey is sent to families to make sure they feel empowered and satisfied with the service provided by their FSO.
- Ensure that all FSOs in New Jersey are provided technical assistance, including the family support partners, executive directors, and their boards of directors.
While De Lacy was on the police force, he was invited to speak for Black History Month for a paid speaking engagement. However, a new director of the organization came in shortly after the event and refused to pay him because, “’ He’s just the police officer, what could he possibly talked about?’ “.
Dr. Davis said that exchange was insulting. That’s when he decided to go back to school to get his master’s because, “I’m never going to allow another person to determine my fate or my destiny based upon their pre-judgment of me, based on my profession or based on what I look like.”
Dr. Davis then went to Fairleigh Dickinson University and enrolled in their two-year Master Administrative Science (MAS) program and finished in 11 months. He decided to get another Master’s while running the charter school and received a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) at Rutgers University and later earned his principal certification. Dr. Davis completed his doctoral degree with his dissertation in “Police Use of Force: Examining the Factors Relating to Police Officers Shooting Unarmed Black Males”.
“I often say lovingly that as a ghetto kid from the hood where living is good, if you can survive. I’ve been blessed to survive, and I still live in that community today. When I have this conversation about inspiration and advocacy, I talk about being under-educated, coming from an urban area, and understanding that poverty does impact how you get an education.”
When discussing inspiration, Dr. Davis tries to remind people, especially men and certainly men of color who are reluctant to go for counseling and treatment, that figuring out you need help and support when faced with adversity is inspiring in itself.
Involvement with TCOM
Dr. De Lacy Davis says that he got involved with the TCOM work when he met Ken McGill, who was the 2021 TCOM Conference Chairperson. Ken was a part of the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care team, which hosts certificate training on the FANS, and also trained De Lacy as a Family Support Partner. Dr. Davis was familiar with the CANS (Child Adolescent Needs and Strengths), and was curious about the tools. All he knew about Dr. John Lyons before was that “he was someone we read about when we go to training. My understanding of him from my vantage point was only superficial, and I wanted a deeper dive.”
Dr. Davis met Dr. John Lyons in June 2020. He says, “To see him, meet him, engage him, I then understood why Ken McGill, the partners, and the executive directors were so excited about him.”
In describing his work in Union County, De Lacy has created a team briefing model around the CANS approach. Meaning, when the goal is to move the family from attentive to moderate to supportive, they talk about the strengths that the family has. They want to be strength-based, and where the families don’t have support or moderate strength, they develop those using a team approach.
“I’m committed to the work because, at the end of the day, I want to see success. I don’t get paid when I’m doing this work, so I don’t have room for us to not get it right.”
Dr. De Lacy shared his final thoughts in the interview, and we thought it was best for the TCOM Collaborative to hear in his own words what he has to say. Below is Dr. Davis talking about his time in the TCOM Community:
Connect with Dr. De Lacy Davis: