By Lee Edwards, Chicago Crusader
Chicago anti-violence advocate Andrew Holmes is the recipient of the FBI’s 2016 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA), in recognition of his tireless efforts to combat violent crime throughout the Chicagoland area.
The Director’s Community Leadership Award provides the bureau a platform to recognize community members and organizations for their contributions in the fields of education and the prevention of crime and violence in their communities. All 56 of the bureau’s field offices award a DCLA recipient. DCLA recipients are invited to Washington, D.C. to meet fellow awardees among other events at FBI headquarters.
“We’re recognizing [Andrew Holmes] because of his outstanding work in the community, the fight against violent crime, and for being a liaison between us and our partnerships on the streets,” said Greg Wing, FBI Supervisory Special Agent over the Community Outreach Program.
Recently, Holmes participated in the FBI’s Citizens’ Academy program which strengthened his relationship with the Bureau. The Citizens’ Academy offers community, civic, religious, and business leaders an opportunity to gain an inside perspective into the Bureau during six-to-eight-week programs hosted at FBI field offices throughout the country.
Holmes said winning the award was “unexpected.”
“I’m grateful for [the award] but at the same time I’m just trying to enhance the quality of life of what you got between the FBI, the Chicago police department, the community, just as law enforcement in the community because we are all one big community under one big umbrella,” said Holmes.
Too many people are being lost to gun violence, and only trained law enforcement officers or trained individuals should handle a firearm because of the possibility of fatalities, said Holmes.
Holmes partners with numerous agencies and municipalities throughout Chicagoland. Currently, he’s listed as a crisis responder with Chicago Survivors and as president, executive board member and director of community outreach with Operation Restoring Innocence Project on their respective websites. He listed Chicago’s West Side and Englewood neighborhoods as com-munities he works in within the city limits and Dolton and Robbins in Chicago’s south suburbs.
Consistency and visibility within certain communities has garnered him the credibility necessary to do his work, said Holmes. He said empowering neighborhood residents to change their community can be achieved by listening to their needs. He said assisting adults on the wrong path to careers as tradesmen and helping them earn their GEDs is a good start to changing communities.
“You have to tie your shoes up and show [people] how you made a difference and let them know, ‘you can make a difference out here better than me.’ Your ideas are better than mine and it works,” said Holmes.
Amidst calls for more diversity within the Bureau, Holmes responded by saying, “We all are human—certain people just need to get over racial issues. We need to work together, we need to enhance our life together, we need to bridge that gap together, and we need to help each other.”
Michael Anderson, FBI Chicago’s Special Agent in Charge, said the DCLA helps address one of the bureau’s “fundamental” issues – community trust.
“One of the things we focus on with the DCLA program is to use it as a platform to improve our community relations,” said Anderson. “Andrew Holmes is exactly the type of person that we need to reach out to maintain positive relationships. Hopefully, with his influence in the community he can bring us all together.”
Although the FBI’s primary function is that of a criminal law enforcement and national security agency, Anderson said it’s “difficult” for the Bureau to develop and maintain a strong relationship with the communities it serves.
“I think we need to do a better job of having our agent personnel also take the blinders off a bit and not dedicate a 100 percent of their time to investigation,” said Anderson.
Anderson clarified that the purpose of the DCLA and the Bureau’s desire to strengthen its relationship with Chicagoans has “no connection whatsoever” to President Donald Trump’s tweet that suggested the “Feds,” be sent into Chicago in response to gun related violence.