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From East to West, AFSCME Law Enforcement Officers Never Quit

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By Pablo Ros Your Union

AFSCME members serve their communities with pride, going above and beyond the call of duty. This is especially true of law enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

During National Police Week, we celebrate the men and women in uniform who protect us and our families every day, and who strive to be role models for our children.

Whether it’s helping to solve a cold murder case (or two), running to honor the victim of a terrorist attack or building positive relationships with members of the community, AFSCME members never quit. And their union never quits on them.

Here are the stories of four law enforcement professionals and how they serve their communities:

Christopher Imparato (Member-provided photo)
Christopher Imparato (Member-provided photo)

Solving Two Cold Cases

Christopher Imparato is a detective with the Norwalk, Connecticut, Police Department, and a member of AFSCME Local 1727, Council 4. This year he was recognized as the 2017 Norwalk Police Officer of the Year for his investigative work leading to the arrests of two suspects in two cold murder cases.

One of the victims was Michael “Mizzy” Robinson, Jr., 21, who was shot to death in October 2010 in front of his home and left behind a 3-year-old daughter. The other was Joseph “Jabs” Bateman, 20, also shot to death in Norwalk, in February 2012. Both were suspected victims of gang violence.

Two men charged with the murders of Robinson and Bateman are in jail awaiting trial.

Imparato worked closely with the Cold Case Unit of the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. His work involved reopening the cold cases and essentially starting over – conducting new evidentiary tests and reviewing the evidence with fresh eyes. What worked in his favor, he said, was the passage of time: people with information were less fearful of coming forward.

“A lot of times in these cold cases what’s involved is the worst crime that a person can commit, and you want to take a person like that off the street before they can commit another murder,” Imparato said. “There’s a lot of joy that a resolution in a cold case brings to the families of the victims because they finally have answers as to what happened. Seeing how much it means to them is a reminder of why we keep working on these cases. It’s humbling and rewarding.”

Audrey Kahawai-Kekipi (Member-provided photo)
Audrey Kahawai-Kekipi (Member-provided photo)

"A Need to Help People"

Audrey Kahawai-Kekipi is one of only three female deputy sheriffs out of about 39 serving on the island of Hawaii, and a member of the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), AFSCME Local 152.

Kahawai-Kekipi grew up in a Hawaii neighborhood “riddled with drugs and violence,” she says. After high school, she joined the military and served for nine years. After serving in the military, she pursued a college education and contemplated a career in law enforcement to help her transition back to civilian life.

“I’ve always had this need to help people,” she says. “And so when I left the military I began searching for something, some way to serve my community, that was somewhere in between a civilian and military way of life.”

Her paternal aunt retired as a deputy sheriff, and Kahawai-Kekipi reached out to her. After they had a conversation, she knew the answer was in law enforcement. Although her mother was at first apprehensive, she says, today both her parents are “super proud.”

“My time as a soldier and leader in the U.S. Army has groomed me to be a servant-leader, to serve those that I am charged with supervising through training, support and guidance,” Kahawai-Kekipi says. “I consider myself lucky to be able to work in the law enforcement field, to continue to serve.”

Her community and her union are lucky to have her.

Now that she’s followed in the footsteps of her aunt, she adds, “I’m hoping that we can keep this a generational thing.”

Karen Moorehead (Member-provided photo)
Karen Moorehead (Member-provided photo)

Running for A Cause

We told you recently about Karen Moorehead, a police officer with the Montville, Connecticut, Police Department, and president of AFSCME Local 2504, Council 4.

Since then, Moorehead has run in the Boston Marathon to raise money for the Martin Richard Foundation, in honor of an 8-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013.

This year’s marathon was on April 16. The weather was “horrendous,” Moorehead says – think hail and 25 mph winds – and getting to the finish line was “much harder than I thought it would be.” But running in her first marathon and doing it in honor of Martin Richard was also “uplifting and inspirational.”

“There were probably 500 spectators who cheered specifically for me when they saw I was running for Martin Richard,” Moorehead says. “That’s what kept me going the entire 26 miles. I could not believe the honor of running for a little boy who has touched so many people.”

Moorehead’s own children – Ainslee, 16, and Brady, 11 – saw her at the halfway mark and met her at the end. Her son ran with her across the finish line.

“If I don’t step up and try, it’s hard to ask my kids to step up and try,” says Moorehead. “And so I try to be a good role model for them.”

Bruce Yonesaki (Member-provided photo)
Bruce Yonesaki (Member-provided photo)

Paying It Forward

Bruce Yonesaki is a deputy sheriff with the State of Hawaii Department of Public Safety and a member of the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), AFSCME Local 152. He lives in Honolulu.

Yonesaki went into law enforcement “to impact my community in a more positive way,” he says. Today, he regularly goes above and beyond to serve the public, and not just when he’s wearing a uniform.

He is the head coach of the air riflery team for varsity boys and girls at Moanalua High School. Since Yonesaki started coaching the team three years ago, they’ve won two state championships.

And he participates in Shop With a Cop, which makes Christmas more endearing to children in need. When a donated gift card didn’t cover the cost of a toy a child wanted, Yonesaki made up the difference.

“I enjoy my job, I like having a positive impact on the community and taking the time to positively change people’s perspective of law enforcement,” Yonesaki says.

He believes it’s important for deputy sheriffs like him to be positive role models for young people, and for disadvantaged children to know that men and women in uniform care about them.

The nature of the job is such that law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard, Yonesaki says. And that’s just fine with him.

“Growing up, I was impacted by a lot of positive role models who showed me that if I worked hard, things could be obtained,” he says. “It’s because of those role models and mentors in my life that I push myself to reach out to young kids and on a personal basis be a positive impact to my community. I’m paying it forward.”