Community Outreach Spotlight

Bridging the Gap Through Boxing

Submitted by Gretchen Spiker, public relations specialist with the Topeka, Kansas, Police Department.

A photo of three officers in front of the Three Shields Boxing Academy building and logo.

Block. Jab. Counter. Youths in Topeka, Kansas, will learn these three moves as part of a new boxing academy taught by first responders. This free program, sponsored by the Topeka Police Athletic League, focuses on partnership right down to its name—The Three Shields Boxing Academy. These three shields highlight the involvement of the Topeka Police Department, Topeka Fire Department, and local Salvation Army.

The academy strives to foster relationships between youths and members of law enforcement. It is somewhat of a revival of a program that dissolved years ago due to loss of funding. Local politicians—Representative John Alcala and Topeka Councilman Michael Padilla—were familiar with the previous program and saw great importance in bringing it back to Topeka. “This isn’t an immediate fix for everything that’s happening in the country right now, but it is a step in being proactive,” Alcala said at the September 6, 2020, ribbon cutting event. “It helps everyone become familiar with each other. The kids who come to this program will get to know our law enforcement, they’ll get to know our firefighters, they’ll get to know the volunteers at The Salvation Army.”

Heading the program is Community Outreach Officer William Lister of the Topeka Police Department. “We are the generation that we raise up,” Lister told the Topeka Capital-Journal in a recent interview. “A lot of kids that we have in our programs don’t have the best home life or the best finances. If I want to see a change in people’s lives, I have to start with the kids. By bridging that gap, building those relationships, we show them we’re just people. We care about you. We want you to make good decisions.”1

A photo of the Three Shields Boxing Academy gym.

For more information about the boxing academy, visit the Topeka Police Athletic League’s Facebook page at or contact Ms. Spiker at


1 Todd Fertig, “CapFed Best News: Youths Invited into the Ring,” Topeka Capital-Journal, September 6, 2020, accessed December 17, 2020,