DETROIT – The Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations is handing out its highest civilian honor to a man from Southwest Detroit.
Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios announced one of the 2016 Director’s Community Leadership Awards is going Jesse Gonzales, a humble man doing amazing work in Detroit.
Gonzales is a staple and respected community member in Southwest Detroit, where he’s lived for 50 years. The FBI said it is acknowledging him for his tireless efforts as a community leader.
Some of his highlights include a backpack drive for school kids in both 2015 and 2016, supplying more than 1,000 backpacks for students in need. He’s also coordinated prayer vigils for officers killed in the line of duty and developed neighborhood watch programs to protect Southwest Detroit residents.
If you ask Jesse though, he’s just being him.
“Something inside just wants to do more and give more,” Gonzales said.
Over the years, Gonzales has also worked to strengthen ties between his community and law enforcement, organizing organized events like community fairs, youth engagement events and public safety awareness training.
He’s also a member of the Detroit Police Department, 4th Precinct, Community Relations Committee, Southwest Detroit Improvement Association, Bridging Communities Group and the Hispanic Police Officers Association.
Despite not having any law enforcement background, he’s been so successful members of his community will often call him for advice or help.
“They call me at different times saying, ‘Can I do this, I did something, what’s my next step’. Or they saw something but they’re afraid to call. Sometimes they’re walking on (thin) ice.”
Agent Gelios said the trust in Gonzales is also turning into trust in law enforcement, which is integral to the FBI’s success.
“We do our job well I think no matter what in most occasions, but it’s about developing trust of the communities we serve,” Gelios said.
Gonzales also admits his Hispanic heritage helps create trust and partnerships in communities where it can be difficult.
“Sometimes there are people in the public afraid to talk to police officers, for some reason now they contact me,” he said.
“If they have this dark skeptical image of the FBI or any law enforcement agency, that can be hard to overcome,” Gelios added. “I have found in this office that the more time we spend out in the community, there’s a level of trust and a level of understanding.”
Gonzales will be joined by other award receptions from around the country at a ceremony at the FBI Headquarters in Washington DC.