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CBS2 meets students who made biggest impressions in Police Commissioner for a Day essay contest

Students make big marks in Police Commissioner for a Day Essay Contest
Students make big marks in Police Commissioner for a Day Essay Contest 02:16

NEW YORK -- It was an exciting Monday morning at One Police Plaza as students from across all five boroughs got sworn into the NYPD.

The honor was a reward for incredible essays they submitted. CBS2's Vanessa Murdock has more on the Police Commissioner for a Day essay contest.

It was the moment words resulted in action.

"Today, you become one of the Finest of the greatest police departments in the world," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

Each student taking the NYPD oath submitted an essay to the Police Athletic League and earned their right to be there.

The essay question was "How would you, as police commissioner for a day, seek to decrease hate crimes against marginalized populations in the city?"

"This city faces a lot of challenges. The voices of our youth provide a unique viewpoint," Sewell said.

Taking top honors and the role of "top cop" was Gabriel Brown. A handshake and a photo with Sewell sealed the deal. 

The 16-year-old said he is involved with peer remediation at Tottenville High School.

"We try and help students like resolve their disputes in a peaceful manner," Brown said.

He entered the essay contest with confidence.

"A good idea to enter and speak my mind about how to combat hate crimes on a larger scale than in just my school," Brown said.

For him, combatting hate crimes starts with, "combatting ignorance. People should learn more and should strive to learn more about the community that they live in."

Carlos Velazquez, the executive director of the PAL, shared that the overarching theme among submissions was education.

"Education about differences and embracing of differences. So amazing to hear young people want to learn more about different cultures and be more accepting," Velazquez said.

Gabriella Zakhary earned Commander of Operations for a Day. She said she believes offering personal interactions among our youngest New Yorkers and their families would make a difference.

"Little kids could go to a different ethnicity's house, eat with them, have dinner, ask questions," the 14-year-old said.

"During quarantine, a lot has happened. As an Asian, I felt fearful because there has been a lot of attacks," said Sophia Li, the appointed bureau chief of the School Safety Division.

Li said she saw the essay contest as an opportunity, "for me to speak up, to have my voice heard."

After the swearing in, she's off to the high school and "boss people around," as they have said.

Li said she plans to employ more talk, less boss.

"As a high school, myself, I can connect more with the students," Li said.

As for our police commissioner, what are his responsibilities for the day?

"I know they're in charge," Brown said.

It seemed he was just fine with that.

The Police Commissioner for a Day essay contest is a long standing NYPD tradition in partnership with the PAL. About 80 students submitted essays. 

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