Armour brings a wealth of practical experience to the table. After
graduating from Central Catholic High School, he was a third
team All-American football player at Miami University in
1998 and went on to play in the NFL for the Cincinnati
Bengals from 1999-2002.
Armour previously worked as Quality Assurance Program Manager for the
Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Abuse Outreach Program (UMADAOP)
as well as a Defensive Quality Control Coach for the
University of Toledo football team. Both of these positions
uniquely qualify Armour for his new role.
When asked how, he shared, “The goal always comes first and I know how
to reach goals. In football we have offense, defense,
special teams, and many different personalities. The goal is
to produce and work together to achieve the common goal of
winning the game. Our initiative will operate similarly to
how a well-drilled team would work together.”
Toledo recorded 61 murders last year compared to 38 the year before.
This new initiative will initially focus on the Junction,
Garfield and Lagrange corridor neighborhoods. The Junction
area is the first community to benefit from the rollout of
There are specific and measurable factors that contribute to gun
violence. Many of these issues intersect with gun violence
and they ALL must be addressed. “The problem is very
comprehensive so we must develop a multi-tiered approach to
address all the aspects of gun violence,” said Amour.
How will the gun reduction initiative get community buy-in from both
adults and young kids?
“Well, for any effective team, you must model the behavior that you
expect to see. I have had issues and run-ins with the law
in the past, but I continue to display my reformed behavior
daily. It shows my community that change is possible,” said
Amour emphasizes providing jobs, reentering citizens from
incarceration, helping people obtain education, and
providing mental health services all produce positive
“My expectation is that these individuals will be our biggest advocates
within the community,” shared Armour.
Amour and his team are building with a sense of urgency to create the
correct relationships to execute their plan. A balance must
also take place. Considering the juxtaposition Armour said:
“We are working at a steady pace. We just can’t rush our
plans to the extent of short changing our efforts.”
Many wonder what the psychological impacts are for youth after watching
countless unarmed Black people being killed by police
officers? How does one have a sense of life and purpose if
they can be killed for no reason? How do we expect the
youth to care and value each other's lives when many of the
visuals they see show them that very few people value black
The Harvard School of Public health found in a study that we must give
children a sense of importance and self purpose. One of the
best ways kids can learn to work through feelings of
helplessness is to be taught emotional intelligence.
Studies also show when you teach a child emotional intelligence, they
are better equipped to deal with issues such as misogyny,
homophobia, stereotyping and discrimination in general.
The world will try to feed us all racism and discrimination. Change what
you are willing to consume to ensure you can help kids to
deal with the depression that can often come from living in
a world with systems that were not built to serve them.
Instead, “model the behavior you want to see,” as Armour reminds us. May
that behavior also include joy. There is something that
happens on a molecular level when black youth, see other
black youth live positively on purpose. There is no
liberation without joy.
“People are accustomed to solving problems in a linear fashion, but this
problem has been allowed to grow so significantly that only
a comprehensive plan will work,” explained Armour.
We must all learn how to process our biases in healthy ways. In doing
so, police must make the decision that they are no longer
going to allow officers to be afraid of the same people they
are sworn to serve.
At this point it’s not a divided issue of #blacklivematter vs.
#bluelivesmatter. Senseless shootings affect everyone and
band-aid models for underserved communities will no longer
suffice. Toledo police have been given the opportunity to
actively work with the Mayor’s initiative towards addressing
solutions where ALL communities can thrive.
The Group Violence Intervention and Cure Violence models
are two of the most well-known strategies for reducing gun
violence. Both models aim to identify those at greatest risk
for violence, to interrupt conflicts before they escalate or
continue a cycle of retaliation, and to engage community
organizations and members in the strategies.
Both approaches are rooted in the Concentration of Violence Theory,
which suggests that a large proportion of violence in any
given community is driven by a small number of people.
However, these intervention models accomplish these outcomes in two very
Research in cities across the country including Chicago, Newark, New
Orleans, and Oakland has found that the majority of gun
violence is committed by a single digit percentage within
those cities' populations. The same is true for Toledo.
Research has also found that there is considerable overlap between those
who commit violence and those who become victims of it due
to similar geography, social and peer networks, and risky
Many local organizations will be positioning themselves in tandem with
Armour’s initiative. The Toledo Department of Neighborhoods,
Neighborhood Health Association of Toledo, Toledo’s Arts
Commission, Frederick Douglass Community Center, Center of
Hope Family Services, City Park League, and the
Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Toledo are just
a few of the initiative's allies.
“All we can do is put different accountability measures in place, and
hope that different communities embrace a multicultural
reality where people can have greater appreciation and
understanding,” shared Armour.
This model relies on the threat of law enforcement intervention to those
who do not heed warnings of severe consequences if gun
violence continues. The strategy entails the formation of a
cross agency enforcement team including local police, city,
state and federal prosecutors, federal law enforcement
agencies, and parole and probation departments.
The enforcement team then develops a strategy to influence the behaviors
of those individuals and groups by using all possible legal
sanctions against them. Some say, those that only
advocate for the jail system model have a rather
short-sighted singular lens.
Though the GVI model has evolved over the past 20+ years, it
seems to be most impactful when its focus is on a specific
behavior of gun violence perpetration, rather than criminal
behavior or group identity more broadly. Many feel a need
for fundamental shifts in this policing strategy, to include
more engagement within communities that are already often
distrustful of law enforcement.
On the other hand, the Cure Violence model Mayor Wade
Kapszukiewicz is trying here in Toledo is built on a much
different approach to violence deterrents. Originally known
as Cease-fire Chicago where it was first applied,
this model entails three specific components:
1. Interrupting violence transmission by mediating
conflicts and limiting the likelihood of retaliation.
2. Identifying those at greatest risk for violence
involvement and reducing their risk through behavior change
and linkage to needed services.
3. Changing community norms around violence through
community mobilization and anti-violence messaging.
“My biggest attraction to using a public health model is it directly
addresses the community and the individuals within it from a
holistic viewpoint,” shared Commissioner Armour.
This model employs street outreach workers to develop relationships with
the individuals at the highest risk for violence. Outreach
workers have often themselves had criminal or violent
histories and are well-known in each of the pilot
Workers have also undergone personal transformations, and desire to
steer the individuals with whom they work with away from
violence based on their personal experience. Being
previously engaged in, or familiar with the very behaviors
and activities they hope to change, increases the likelihood
that the outreach workers will be seen as credible
messengers and eventually trustworthy resources.
The model also employs special outreach workers who operate primarily as
Violence Interrupters working to identify, mediate,
and de-escalate potentially dangerous conflicts that could
lead to shootings.
Because of the need to build genuine and trusted relationships with
those at greatest risk for violence, in order to mediate
conflicts and effectively help provide support, it is
critically important that the outreach workers and violence
interrupters maintain a clear distinction from law
“It’s important to note it is not my role to provide information to the
police. Thankfully I’m not tasked with the responsibility of
solving crime. My role is to provide mediation, prevention,
and resources to the people I respect in the Toledo
community,” said Armour.
The initiative is also intended to increase the community’s confidence
in general with police to intervene when violence does
There have been important lessons from the implementation and evaluation
of both models to reduce gun violence. We can reduce
violence by focusing less on any one particular model and
instead authentically engaging with communities while
allowing for collaborative strategic planning and meaningful
Armour is meeting individuals where they are while providing wrap around
services to address participants needs. They are integrating
elements of life coaching, restorative justice, and
community empowerment into a support network.
Knowing what we know, we can prioritize approaches that encourage
positive police community engagement. Policymakers at every
level of government - mayors, city council members, city
managers, state governors and legislators, congress people
and agency heads, should recognize that public safety starts
before and extends far beyond police and emergency services.
Armour is authentically engaging residents while developing public
safety plans driven by the change they want to see. These
strategies aid in lifestyle change while fostering both
trust building and reconciliation between police and
This approach is not only community driven, but community approved. “We
will be evaluating all promising interventions for their
impact and scalability,” added Commissioner Armour.
We always have to have people willing to intercede in the gap. Whether
through prayer, on the ground, in our education system, or
in our policies. If you can’t get involved physically,
please consider donating your resources to this initiative
or a participating organization.
“This is the first of many steps to move forward, working
with the community to discuss the root causes, social
determinants, and resources to best support the overall
initiative,” shared Armour.
Many are changing their focus from listening to PR people on TV, to
listening to the people on the ground doing the work. People
We often look for state legislators or elected officials to solve the
challenges in front of us, while oftentimes forgetting
grassroots mobilization. With issues like gun violence, ‘on
the ground efforts’ are just as important in impacting
change as anything else.
“Community Townhall Meeting on Gun Violence: A Conversation
with Commissioner JoJuan Armour, The Mayor’s Initiative to
Reduce Gun Violence,” is the first in a series of
initiatives to get the community involved in strategizing
best practices in gun violence prevention.
The town hall-style meeting will be at Scott High School,
from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. Residents may attend
in-person or virtually. You can register for this event at