Captain Jabari Williams

Captain Jabari Williams of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department meets with Sycamores’ Gina Peck-Sobolewsk. (Sycamores/Submitted)

At a time when relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve have come under scrutiny throughout LA County following instances like the recent clashes with protestors in Downtown after the overturning of Roe v. Wade or the treatment of journalists by police at Echo Park Lake in 2021, Pasadena-based behavioral health organization Sycamores hopes to build bridges.

After a two-year hiatus, Sycamores recently welcomed back officers from the Altadena Sheriff’s Station for a spirited game of basketball with the foster youth at the organization’s El Nido residential campus. The event, generously hosted by the Las Candelas support group, was an opportunity to build positive relationships between the law enforcement officers and the youth at Sycamores’ Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, strong relationships of mutual trust between police and the communities they serve are crucial to maintaining public safety and effective policing. 

In the words Captain Jabari Williams of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, “As law enforcement officers, we want to be somebody that young people can look up to. And what better way to do that than coming out here, interacting with them, and just having a good time.” 

In addition to the competitive game refereed by Pick-Up USA, those in attendance enjoyed a taco dinner, courtesy of Las Candelas, and ice cream from Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream of Pasadena. While the deputies came out ahead on the court this year, Sycamores is looking forward to a rematch next year.

Sycamores’ Gina Peck-Sobolewski expressed that collaborative partnership with the sheriffs can help shape the youth’s view of law enforcement in a positive light. After the game, one of the boys in the Sycamores program shared, “I don’t usually hang around cops like that, but this was different. I really had fun.”

With 11 locations throughout Southern California, Sycamores has provided programs and services for children, young adults, adults and families facing serious life challenges for the past 120 years. At the El Nido residential campus in Altadena, the organization provides a welcoming environment for boys needing intervention and care. 

With their Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program (STRTP), Sycamores provides care and supervision to dependent and/or neglected males aged 11-18, many of whom are a part of the foster care or probation systems. The goals of the program are to stabilize mental health symptoms and to engage the youth and their family by providing the tools necessary to return home and live successfully as a family and within their community.