GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Police Officer Derrick Learned is a finalist for the International Association Chiefs of Police Officer of the Year award.
Only four people in law enforcement around the world are selected as finalists.
Officer Learned earned this recognition for starting the Drive for Success program at the Grand Rapids Area Boys & Girls Clubs.
Drive for Success provides drivers education at no cost to teen members of the club.
“A little bit of a shock, not really somebody that likes to be in the spotlight. I’m just trying to do the best that I can for the kids we have here at the centers,” Officer Derrick Learned said.
Learned says he's especially surprised his program was selected for this type of award. Typically, he says, the award goes to officers who have done great acts of heroism, like stopping a school shooter.
“It was kinda neat that somebody had as much faith in the program as I do,” Learned said.
Learned says this is a win-win-win situation. Kids get their driver's licenses, and the proper training to be out on the road. He hopes it will lead to fewer traffic violations and accidents, which only benefits the Grand Rapids community.
“It starts with our young people. They’re our voices for the future. If they’re going to be successful, it’s gotta start somewhere. And it’s going to be right here, with us, in the Drive for Success in the Boys & Girls Club in Grand Rapids,” Learned said.
Officer Learned will find out if he wins the award in mid-September at a conference in New Orleans, along with all of the other finalists.
Learned says if he could choose between this award and funding to continue his program for generations, he'd take funding any day.
Currently, there are 20 kids set up to be part of Drive for Success come October.
There's a waitlist for students who want to be in the program, and it only continues to grow.