Conway officer Joshua Kear has built strong relationships with Faulkner County’s youth and has vowed not to give up on those he mentors through juvenile court programs. Because of his dedication, Kear received the 2020 Teen Court Faye Shepherd Award for Juvenile Justice.
The Teen Court Award for Juvenile Justice was created in 2019 and named in honor of the 20th Judicial District’s former juvenile court chief of staff – Faye Shepherd.
“Mrs. Shepherd believed in creating programs and opportunities to better serve at-risk youth,” Circuit Judge Troy Braswell, who also presides over juvenile court, said of Shepherd, who is now the juvenile justice specialist for the Administrative Office of the Courts. “She refused to give up on kids in our community. It is in that spirit that this award was created.”
The success rate the juvenile justice system in the 20th Judicial District, which includes Faulkner, Searcy and Van Buren counties, is made possible through community support and partnerships.
“Our court has had tremendous success due to the partnerships forged in the community,” Braswell said, adding that Kear has played a strong role in the Juvenile Drug Court, Teen Court and Juvenile Court 101 programs.
The Conway Police Department officer joined the Juvenile Drug Court team two years ago and now also volunteers his time when Teen Court is in session and is an instructor for the Juvenile Court 101 class. Kear works with local teens and shows them how to respond and conduct themselves when they come into contact with a law enforcement officer. He also conducts home visits to ensure those involved in the juvenile justice system have safe and supportive home environments, does curfew checks, conducts drug screenings and provides de-escalation services to families.
Judge Braswell said it is clear Kear has a heart to serve and genuinely cares about making a difference in the teens’ lives.
“While officer Kear’s responsibilities are easy to list, his contributions and care for each youth is immeasurable,” the circuit judge said.
The road to mentoring local youth and serving the community was a bit rocky for Kear.
Before he became a certified law enforcement officer, Kear battled an alcohol addiction. When he decided it was time to overcome his struggle, Kear turned to Renewal Ranch – a faith-based rehabilitation facility for men. At the time, the rehabilitation center was full. This did not stall Kear’s journey to a sober life. Instead, he opted to sleep on the floor until there was bed space available.
The Conway officer uses his past struggles as motivation and is also an inspiration for those he serves, now-retired Police Chief Jody Spradlin said earlier this year.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’re able to talk about those struggles because he now uses his past experiences to help those who have been in similar circumstances,” Spradlin said in February when recognizing Kear as the 2019 CPD officer of the year. “You see, officer Kear will tell you an addiction to alcohol almost cost him his life. I’m proud that he is willing and openly discusses his background. He doesn’t hide from it.”
The Conway officer and juvenile justice supporter said his experiences in life inspire him to help others get back on track.
“I want to serve and protect strangers, because strangers helped me,” Kear said. “I was saved through my faith in Christ. My family and Renewal Ranch loved me through Christ and never gave up on me. I have been given a new life and I am dedicated to helping kids stay away from the same lies and pitfalls that almost took my life.”
Encouraging local youth to overcome their struggles and holding them accountable all along the way is something Kear said he was happy to dedicate his time to. The Conway officer said he will do his best to let those who find themselves in the juvenile justice system know that he is there to support them and teach them better decision-making skills.
“I am not perfect. The kids we serve are not perfect. I want them to understand that it’s going to be OK. I understand their situation in life and what they are going through. I am not going to give up on them regardless of their decisions. Their lives are too important,” Kear said. “This is why I continue to serve my community.”
The officer makes a difference in the lives of the youth he mentors as well as in the community he serves, CPD spokesman LaTresha Woodruff said.
"Officer Josh Kear has proven to be a great asset to the Conway Police Department since he was hired in 2018," she said. "His love and compassion for people and the community is very evident in how he handles his job and through his volunteerism. We are proud to have him."
Braswell recognized the Conway officer on Aug. 20.
During the ceremony, the circuit judge said he and others involved with the Teen Court program were thankful for Kear’s dedicated service.
“It’s an important time to stand up for law enforcement and thank them for what they do in our community,” Braswell said. “Our Teen Court is grateful for what Office Kear does for the youth in our community.”