Vonyale Montgomery, chief of security at Baptist Health Sciences University, was a special guest presenting on the impact of violence on youth at a virtual Lunch and Learn on May 26 to honor Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Other special guests included Dr. Altha Stewart and Melanie Funchess, both from the Center for Youth Advocacy and Well-Being at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
The event was held by Family Advocate Center and Empowerment Services (F.A.C.E.S.) of Memphis and Emotional Fitness Centers of Tennessee, a faith-based mental health and substance abuse screening program.
Chief Montgomery retired as a lieutenant from the Memphis Police Department after serving there for 26 years. She was a supervisor over domestic violence. She holds a master’s degree in education and curriculum instruction and received instruction from the National Criminal Justice Training Center.
According to Chief Montgomery, keeping children safe requires a connective approach involving the family, social services, the schools and law enforcement. She noted that once law enforcement arrives on the scene, there is usually already an issue with child well-being or living standards, and sometimes there is a lack of social workers for kids.
“Law enforcement is both about enforcement and prevention. The goal is to stop the process before enforcement,” said Chief Montgomery.
She noted that part of prevention is spending the time necessary teaching conflict resolution to young people to help avoid problems later. Another important aspect of prevention is connection.
Chief Montgomery encourages all BHSU students, faculty and campus visitors to interact with the security team. She wants to connect with the students at BHSU and for them to know her as a person, and she asks BHSU security officers to engage with the students, as well.