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Police officer dedicated to helping youth

Jean Casseus, Albany Police Department's 2013 Officer of the Year speaks six languages, including Haitian Creole, his native tongue. After serving five years in the French Foreign Legion Casseus joined the APD and is active in the APD Gang Task Force and SWAT.

Jean Casseus, Albany Police Department's 2013 Officer of the Year speaks six languages, including Haitian Creole, his native tongue. After serving five years in the French Foreign Legion Casseus joined the APD and is active in the APD Gang Task Force and SWAT.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Some people will notice a slight "accent" to the speech of Albany Police Department Officer of the Year Cpl. Jean Casseus.

The influence is clearly French -- or is it German, Spanish, Hebrew? Casseus speaks all those languages, he says, in addition to English and his native Haitian Creole, a French-based language with a West African flavor.

"Haiti is so multi-cultural. In school you have to learn at least three languages to get along," Casseus said.

The island nation is also among the poorest in the world, where there is no public-assisted education and opportunities for employment are extremely limited. Casseus's solution? He joined the French Foreign Legion.

"I joined for the money and for the opportunities," Casseus said. "but I didn't know it would be so rough. It was the longest five years of my life."

The elite and almost mythical Legion is a mixture of many nationalities, who serve for their own special reasons. Despite the hardships in the Legion, Casseus gained a variety of skills, many of which he built upon for his chosen career as an officer of the law, Casseus said.

After parting with the Legion, Casseus managed to gain residence in Hillsborough County, Fla., where some of his relations lived. It was there, in the Tampa area, that he first served in the law enforcement field and where he found his interest in youth and illegal gangs, he said.

"Kids are very important to me," Casseus said. "I'm very good with kids and I'm also good at locking people up. But I believing in salvaging people's lives. Everybody can change if you give them a chance."

Just more than five years ago, Casseus got an opportunity to join the APD, he said. His wife lived in the area and it seemed a great place to be. Now, he's a leader with the APD Gang Task Force, since 2009 a special unit for the control of illegal gang crimes.

He's also an Albany-Dougherty SWAT Team member and a departmental firearms instructor. When it comes to organized youth violence, he and the Gang Task Force try to concentrate on prevention and intervention, Casseus said.

"There's only so many kids you can put in jail before you wonder what you've accomplished," Casseus said. "It would be wise to help them. It would save you a lot of trouble in the future. They get to prison and they start learning whole new ways to commit crimes. They meet with seasoned gang members and maybe when they get out they start robbing banks."

According to APD officials, in 2011 Casseus dedicated "countless hours" tracking the gang-related criminal activity of the 8-Trey and Rollin 30's, also known as the "Crips." His efforts, along with the assistance of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies led to a successful member round-up called "Operation Shock the Six."

Capt. Wendy Luster, Casseus's commanding officer said that while everyone in the gang unit is dedicated to controlling gang violence, "only one" could be 2013 Officer of the Year.

"He's so very motivated," Luster said. "I really admire his dedication." She nominated Casseus for the departmental award.

Luster said she rides with Casseus from time to time, as she does with all the task force officers, and he has an incredible eye for crimes.

"People in the task force call him "Hawkeye," Luster said. "He doesn't miss a thing. He's really quick to spot something and to enforce."

"I think the biggest reason I won is because I take my job very serious," Casseus said. "I do what I have to do in order to keep the community safe. I went above and beyond by working leads and taking more cases. I played a big part in a roundup of the Crip gang members. That's something that hadn't been done in Albany in a long time."