Retired Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall to be honored as KidsMatter Kids' Champion
As KidsMatter celebrates 20 years of empowering Naperville Area youth to say "no" to destructive choices and "yes" to endless possibilities, the board of directors is pleased to honor retired Police Chief Robert Marshall with the Kids' Champion Award in recognition of his personal, professional, and community-wide work supporting and empowering youth in the community. The award will be presented at the KidsMatter 20th anniversary gala on Friday, Sept. 17.
"Bob is a wonderful example of KidsMatter's vision -- Empowering youth to realize their purpose, know and understand their value and help them find their pathway," says KidsMatter Board President Dr. Laura Bokar.
"As an early member of the KidsMatter Board, Bob suggested including student voices. KidsMatter began a Senior High Board of student representatives from area high schools to contribute their unique insights," adds Executive Director Nina Menis. "Throughout his career, Bob has been committed to creating opportunities to empower youth."
Chief Marshall was instrumental in the development of KidsMatter. "We in the (police) department were seeing an increase in self-harm, drug and alcohol use and suicide attempts," he says. "When we got together with Edward Hospital, Mayor Pradel and civic leaders to brainstorm what we could do as a community, our goal was to focus on prevention and education so we could get in front of the risky behavior. Initially we were able to track that behavior through our resource officers and the counselors in the schools. We always wanted to follow the data."
"What we needed to know was why kids were engaging in this behavior," he says. Over the years, many discussions were held which uncovered a variety of social, emotional and physical stressors, as well as the threat of gun violence in schools, cyber bullying and negative effects of social media, as well as a strained relationship with local police.
The Chief has ensured that a Naperville Police Officer has continually served on the KidsMatter Board. Mayor Pradel's Safety Roundtable provided Marshall the opportunity to offer active shooter threat assessment training to organizational leaders charged with keeping youth safe. Cyber bullying training for youth followed, along with a community wide campaign created with KidsMatter's Junior and Senior High Boards to encourage the public to monitor, secure and dispose of prescription drugs.
"When kids are self-medicating to alleviate stress, and they are looking to harm themselves, we needed to provide ways for youth and their parents to understand what is happening and to give them the resources they need prevent the risky behavior," Marshall says. "That's why developing parents circles and creating dialogue with youth has been so important. I've tried to instill a culture among our officers to treat young people with dignity and respect, that we employ communications, sensitivity and de-escalation. We want our contacts with youth to be positive."
In 2017 Marshall was part of a team of educators, city leaders and Dr. Patricia Schacht, assistant professor at North Central College to develop the State of the Kids survey, which distilled a current picture of the level and sources of stress, drug and alcohol use, and suicidal ideation reported by 7th graders and high school juniors. "Over time, issues change. We need to continually update these kinds of surveys. If it's predictable, it's preventable," Marshall says.
"In my 37 years in law enforcement, I hope I've made things better for others by listening to the issues and engaging with our youth. We must provide support for parents, educate them on what their kids are exposed to. No one organization can address all that is needed for our youth. But with public safety professionals collaborating with our community non-profits like KidsMatter, together we can give young people the tools to be good citizens who bring great value to the future of the community."
Chief Marshall began his career with the Naperville Police Department in 1977 as a police officer. He retired from the department in 2021. Interim Chief Jason Arres continues to serve on the KidsMatter Board of Asset Trustees.