Behind the Badge of Daytona Beach’s Chief Public Servant: Meet B-CU Alumnus Chief Jakari Young.
When you call the police, it means something has happened. And when you respond, you get to help somebody, you get to try to right the wrong. You get to try to make someone's day better.” -- Daytona Beach Chief of Police, Jakari Young
As Chief of Police of Daytona Beach, Jakari Young is among Bethune-Cookman University’s most public and profiled alums. Google his name, and you will literally find pages upon pages of articles and videos mentioning, if not featuring, the community leader’s name and/or face.
While these media posts laud Chief Young on his many contributions to the community he serves and the accolades he has received throughout his 20+-year tenure on the police force, few tell the story of how a small, private university in the heart of Daytona Beach helped lay the foundation for the leader he was to become.
One could say that Chief Young’s collegiate journey at B-CU was fairly typical at first– he went to classes, played tenor drums in the Wildcats Marching Band during his freshman year (the highlight of his time, he said), worked part-time jobs on- and off-campus in the years following, and looked towards the future. And then college algebra happened.
“I got to a point in my college journey to where I was struggling with college algebra. I had everything completed except for my two algebra classes and I still needed an internship,” Young said.
When a co-worker told him of an opportunity to study at the police academy at Daytona State College (Daytona Beach Community College at the time) with all expenses paid in exchange for a three-year commitment to the force following graduation, Young found his way around those pesky algebra classes.
With the blessing of his B-CU advisor to use this opportunity to fulfill the internship portion of his college requirements and a few credits shy of a bachelor’s degree, Young left B-CU and joined the Law Enforcement Academy at Daytona State.
The move was not a far stretch for Young. As a young teenager, Young aspired to become a police officer.
“I was the type of kid that my progress reports always said the same thing – Jakari has trouble staying on task.” Young said with a chuckle. “I was a bit of a daydreamer, and it was because I didn't like being inside. I didn't like the office setting. I always said that I wanted my office to have four wheels on it. So, law enforcement seemed like the appropriate career choice for me.”
He graduated from academy and joined the police force in April 2001. And then “something interesting happened.”
“I started getting bills in the mail for school loans,” Chief Young said. “There's no way I'm going to pay for a degree that I didn't finish. So, when I started getting the bills in the mail, that expedited my return to school, to figure out how to pass the college algebra.”
Pass he did. In 2004, Jakari Young earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, eight years after starting the program. He would continue his education nearly a decade later, ultimately earning his master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from B-CU in 2016.
Chief Young said Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s legacy prepared him for his career in two ways – how to face adversity with grace and determination and by reinforcing his commitment of serving others.
He said that in his day, and somewhat still today, there was a stigma of graduating from a historically black college and university (HBCU), such as B-CU. Many believed the education was not as strong as that found in a state college. As a response to this fallacy, Chief Young said his professors would challenge students to reach beyond normal expectations.
“When I asked why we were putting the extra effort in our assignments, several teachers told me, ‘We're going to do this because there's those who believe that if you come to an HBCU, your education is watered down’,” he said, continuing, “’but when you graduate from here, you're going to know better than that. We're going to go the extra mile and we're going to do the extra work. So, you can proudly hold your head up, that you went to this HBCU and you know, that you've earned everything you've gotten, and your education isn't watered down’.”
“Going through that experience helped prepare me for my career and the adversity that I would later face in law enforcement.”
Still, Chief Young said that B-CU’s motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” instilled in him from an early age (following in the footsteps of his father, aunts, uncles and cousins, Young is a second-generation B-CU alum) remains the foundation on which he has centered his career and life.
“No one calls the police on a good day,” he said, noting that he believes law enforcement officers, at their core, are truly public servants. “When you call the police, it means something has happened. And when you respond, you get to help somebody, you get to try to right the wrong. You get to try to make someone's day better.”
“That's what I try to do in my everyday walk of life -- to serve, just get out and serve the community. When we get a call, that means something has happened and someone is looking for answers, looking for solutions, looking for relief. And when you can provide that, there is no greater feeling.”
As we closed out the interview, Chief Young said he would be remiss if he didn’t take the opportunity to recruit.
“I'm always looking for good, well founded, well rounded individuals with a solid moral compass, because that's what law enforcement calls for,” Chief Young said. “In today's law enforcement, as a whole, we no longer get the benefit of the doubt. So, I need people with a moral compass that's as straight as can be, and who understand that we will not break the law to enforce the law.”
Spoken like a solid community leader. Thank you Wildcat, for all that you do for us and for our Daytona Beach community.