Five-year-old Amir Amin (or as he calls himself Lieutenant Amin) doesn’t know about the nationwide Police Lip Sync Challenge or that the Richmond Police Department challenged the Henrico County Police Division last week after releasing it’s own lip sync video, drawing praise from singer Sara Bareilles. Amir just knows he’s having fun.
Dressed in his tiny police uniform, he throws his leg over his toy police motorcycle and proceeds to lead the pace for two motorcycle officers from Henrico Police as they drive down a small asphalt strip at Deep Run Park with cameras rolling.
Amir is just one of the hundreds of volunteers that gathered at the park last week to help create a video Henrico hopes will best the competition.
Volunteers from the Henrico Division of Fire, Lakeside, and Tuckahoe Rescue Squads, and Henrico Sheriff’s Office joined with Henrico Police and members of its communication center as well as about 300 kids from the Henrico Police Athletic League’s summer camp to dance to the music of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Will Smith’s) Summertime.
Even Gracie, one of the sweetest bloodhounds around, had the chance to ham it up with Officer Christopher Lanham of the Canine Unit.
Henrico had been tossing around the idea of making a lip sync video for a while but everything went into high gear when Richmond made its challenge. Henrico Police had already taken the lead on creating a county work group that also included Henrico Security, Henrico Fire, the Sheriff’s Office, and PAL.
“We said, let’s bring in all of public safety,” says Laura Beck, public information coordinator for Henrico Police. “The Chief [Humberto Cardounel, Jr.] wanted to include everybody.”
The group was tasked with creating the concept and choosing the song for the video. The song ended up being the tricky part of the equation. “We wanted to have a fun song that people could dance to and knew and enjoyed but at the same time we wanted it be appropriate for all ages and for a public safety entity of Henrico to use,” Beck says.
The group had considered a few concepts before Norfolk or Richmond Police posted their videos. “We had lots of citizens reaching out to us saying ‘I hope Henrico does this,’” Beck says.
While everyone participating in the video did so on a volunteer basis, the group reached out to School Resource Officer Rafael Medina to lead the lip sync portion. “We were trying to find someone that would fit the role,” says Officer Kenny Lucord, police media specialist. “Officer Medina has helped us on some things in the past. He’s a likeable guy and kids respond well to him. He was a good fit.”
Medina readily says he’s the “character in the department.” And, he has a tie to the song. “When I was younger I said it wasn’t summer until I heard Will Smith’s Summertime on the radio,” he says.
He spent about a week rehearsing the hip-hop song. “The last verse of the song is the hardest because it has lots of stops and starts,” he says.
The video was purposely filmed at various locations around the county. “We wanted to showcase all of the different areas of the county and represent it as a whole and not just one area,” Beck says.
One of the primary objects was to show a different side of law enforcement. Often when a “citizen has an experience with an officer it’s during a traumatic event or the worst day of their life,” says Beck. “This shows the human side, that officers are people too. We have fun.”
Most of the officers on the force live in Henrico. “To me, that’s what people don’t see,” says Lucord. “They forget most of us live here. We have a deeper connection, a vested stake in the community.”
Hopefully this video helps people see that officers are “approachable. We are not just there to enforce laws; we are there to help and to serve,” Beck says. “When there is transparency, approachability and fun it makes the job easier for the officer.”
That’s why Amir’s grandmother, Debrah Simmons, wanted her grandson to participate. He became interested in the police about two years ago. “He wanted to be a policeman/fireman,” says Simmons who began taking Amir to different police events.
But then Amir heard adults voicing their opinions about law enforcement. “He sees the news, the protestors and hears different people saying bad things about the police,” says Simmons who lives in Varina. “He started getting to the point he was afraid of police officers. He started looking at them like some adults do and I wanted to change that.”
Police officers are not like “people are making them out to be,” she adds. “Yes, some people have problems, but for the most part I want him to understand that police officers are good people. I don’t want him to look at them as being bad because they are not.”
Amir met Chief Cardounel a few months ago at the police memorial. “The Chief invited us to his office and took off his wings and gave them to Amir,” Simmons says. “Amir said, “G’ma I’m a lieutenant,’ and I said, ‘You are a chief – you have the wings!””
It was Chief Cardounel who invited Amir to be in the video. Simmons didn’t tell Amir why they were going to the park. “I just told him it was another police event,” she says. “Of course he wanted to go. He said to me, ‘I’m a police officer and I’m their boss so I have to be there.”
When the video was finished he turned to his grandmother and told her, “That was awesome. Did you see that they were following me?” Simmons says. “I can’t wait until he sees the video.”
Shout out to the Richmond Police Department for their excellent lip sync challenge video. Watch here!