Newberry High School’s Academy of Criminal Justice is set to receive $1.2 million worth of law enforcement gear today, courtesy of Phalanx Defense Systems.
The donation was set aside by James Coats, CEO of the Gainesville business.
“I feel that we as business owners in this community have a social responsibility to our youth,” he said. “They’re the only true natural resource that we have, and we have to show them that they’re worth investing in.”
Phalanx designs and manufactures protective gear, such as chest armor and holsters.
“It allows us to be a part of the life-saving cycle, which is a very rewarding cycle to be in,” Coats said.
The Academy of Criminal Justice is a magnet program founded in 1996 that enrolls high school students from all over Alachua County who are interested in law, law enforcement, forensics and related fields.
Patrick Treese, the academy’s director, said he connected instantly with Coats because of his dedication to helping young people.
“He gets the kids, and the kids get him,” Treese said. “And I’m all about my kids. I want them to succeed, and I want them to benefit from whatever I can give them, which is why I’m always trying to make their experience the best it can be.”
Treese, who is also a High Springs reserve police officer, said the donated gear includes various high-quality pouches and holders typically worn by law enforcement officials.
Some of the gear will be used by students enrolled in the academy, while any excess equipment will go toward scholarship funds as well as raising money for a new patrol vehicle to use in the program, Treese said.
“Back in 2009, [Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell] graciously donated a surplus Crown Vic to us,” he said. “When we got it, it was already 8 years old, and it has since outlived its purpose.”
The academy uses its car for equipment transport and community service, among other things, Treese said. He added that he wants to purchase a new car that has room for the program’s German shepherds to ride along, too.
Newberry High School Principal Kevin Purvis said he commends Coats’ decision to support the Academy of Criminal Justice.
“I think it’s admirable for Mr. Coats to bless Newberry High School with this opportunity,” he said. “It’s just incredible, and we’re ecstatic.”
Coats said he hopes his donation helps the program but also teaches its students the value of investing in community.
“It’s our hope that by continuing to be an example in the community,” he said, “we will be able to influence the youth to grow up and hold a responsible place in our community – to pay it forward.”
Tune in to WUFT News’ First at Five newscast at 5 p.m. for coverage of today’s donation.