The law enforcement officers who marched through Homewood and Lincoln-Lemington Wednesday weren't focused on the route they were taking.
They were more concerned about the path taken by the young people who live in those troubled neighborhoods.
"Somewhere, when kids were 8 years old, they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, policemen or firefighters," said Gregory T. Rogers, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. "But from that time to them ending up being drug dealers, we lost them. This organization is trying to find that gap where they were lost."
NOBLE, founded in 1976, brings together black law enforcement executive officers with the goal of public service and improving conditions in crime-ridden urban communities. On Wednesday, the group concluded its 37th annual National Training Conference and Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
As part of their five-day visit, NOBLE members organized the "Justice by Action" march, giving residents of Homewood and Lincoln-Lemington a chance to interact with police chiefs, captains, sergeants and other ranking officers.
"When NOBLE marches, we want to show we care and give a positive police presence by going through heavily populated neighborhoods who are faced with trouble," said Louie Allen, a retired FBI agent who is from Homewood and graduated from Westinghouse High School.
More than a dozen buses dropped the officers at the intersection of North Homewood Avenue and Kelly Street to begin their walk "to give back to the youth," said Lance Hatcher, interim police chief at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
"We want to galvanize and have a better partnership with the youth and show there are high-ranking black officers who are here to serve the community," Chief Hatcher said.
The African-American Music Institute, which received a community award from NOBLE for its work with youth, led the 1.5-mile parade route to the Mount Ararat Baptist Church, playing "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Neighborhood residents cheered the officers, shouting thanks for keeping them safe. Some stood atop cars, saluting the decorated officials, while others waved from behind the windows of their homes.
"We march for you young people because you are our future," said Maurita Bryant, NOBLE president and assistant chief of operations for the Pittsburgh bureau of police. "We march to church to show our faith. We are servant leaders."
The conference concluded with a candlelight memorial to NOBLE's fallen members and founders.
Correction, posted Aug. 8: Retired FBI Agent Louie Allen graduated from Westinghouse High School. This story has been updated to provide the correct name of the school.
Kelton Brooks: email@example.com. First Published August 8, 2013 4:00 AM