Local woman bridges gap between teens and law enforcement
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – One woman is trying to break down the current stigma about police, one season at a time.
Beyond that, she’s living out a childhood dream and having a lot of fun around a sport she’s loved since high school.
Michelle Ackerson Carter isn’t your typical cheer coach. A typical coach doesn’t wear a badge and a gun to practice.
Every day, she steps into Manzano High School’s cheer room – two worlds collide.
“When I was in high school, freshman year, my mom said that you needed to pick a sport,” said Michelle Ackerson Carter.
She ruled out basketball and went for cheerleading. Ackerson Carter went on to cheer for years afterward.
“Since I was five. I remember going to Grand Central Station with my mom, and I saw a police officer with a canine. And I said, ‘That’s what I want to do when I get older. That’s what I want to do,’” Ackerson Carter said.
She made that dream a reality almost seven years ago when she joined the Albuquerque Police Department.
“I’ve got kids that told me, ‘I don’t really like cops. I don’t want to be around cops,'” she said.
She only saw that as an opportunity to change their minds.
“They see me as a coach, so it makes me a little bit more approachable to them, and they see me as a person,” said Ackerson Carter. “I’m building that bridge with these kids that used to not like police officers.”
Ackerson Carter has gained a third title in the past few seasons too – mentor.
“For them to be able to work through decisions that they’ve made, either continue with the good decisions or take consequences and move forward and learn from them,” said Ackerson Carter. “These cheerleaders, see a female officer and think, ‘Wow, I can do anything.’”
APD recently posted some photos of Ackerson Carter in action on social media. The post got dozens of comments and more than a thousand likes, showing support for what she’s been doing.