Police Officer Ernie Pollard is the Center Director at the Paley PAL Center. Officer Pollard was appointed to the Philadelphia Police Department in 1996 and was assigned to the PAL Police Unit on May 14, 2000. Pollard lives in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy neighborhood and has two children. In his spare time, he likes to watch rodeos and ride horses.
How did you first learn about PAL?
My father first introduced me to PAL when I was 10 years old. He took me to the PAL Boxing Gym at 22nd Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in hopes that they would train me, though my mom wouldn’t let me travel for any tournaments. It was very interesting because my trainer was blind, yet he taught me how to fight. More importantly, PAL taught me about self worth and respect.
What made you want to be a part of the PAL Unit?
From an early age, I was taught by adults who cared for me to give back and to help others. Working in patrol in the 17th District, everyone knew I played basketball in high school and at Temple, and, because of that, the Captain assigned me to help a local PAL officer with his basketball league. While there, I was able to see firsthand what PAL’s Philadelphia Police officers do not only for the kids, but also for the community.
History with the Police Athletic League?
In my time at PAL, I’ve worked with three different communities. First, I was in the North Penn PAL Center in North Philadelphia. I was then stationed in Fairhill PAL. For several years now, I have been serving at the Paley PAL Center in Germantown.
Why do you think proactive community policing measures like PAL are so important?
PAL gives the community a chance to see police officers in a different light. Community policing is the backbone of the Department. As PAL officers, we get a chance to work with kids, parents, and schools to bridge the gap. Most kids only see cops locking people up. They need to see us through programs like PAL to help change that.
What is one thing you want every child to know?
I want every child to know they have a chance to be successful, but it takes hard work and dedication to get there. My college coach, the legendary John Chaney, had a saying that he instilled in us, his players: “No deposit, no withdraw.” You have to put something in to get something out. Coach Chaney and this saying have really changed my outlook on life and how I mentor young people.
What kind of impact do you want to have on a child’s life?
I want kids to respect themselves and to set reasonable goals for themselves.
Did you have a mentor who made an impact on you? Tell us about it.
My mentors were my high school and college coaches, Barry Brodzinski and John Chaney. They pushed me to be the best I can and made me work for it. Not only did they teach me about basketball, but they taught me about life and what it means to be a man. I learned that you have to give back and help others in the community you come from – especially the kids. Both of my coaches stressed the importance of education and that winning is an attitude. Both coaches, along with my parents, helped develop me into the man I am today.
What programs do you offer at your center? What programs are unique to your center?
We offer the standard PAL programs like basketball, mentoring, computers, reading, and many more. We also have a new program for girls involving dance and fashion.