There is no how-to guide for when you become a parent. And fathers do not come from cookie-cutters. They often emulate the style of parenting they had. Some are affectionate. Some may be distant. Some may simply be a provider.
Michael Jason Scott, a veteran LAPD patrol officer at the Devonshire Division, believes all fathers should have one undeniable trait.
“Being there for your kids is the most important thing,” Scott said. “Kids absorb everything. They’re learning every day. They want that father figure in their life, whether it’s a strict father, a nice father, or one who comes around every month. A kid will remember that.
“It’s very important for a kid to have a father figure in their life. Kids want to have someone acknowledge them, someone to appreciate them — someone to tell them what to do.”
Scott, 48, grew up in a two-parent home in Lake View Terrace, the youngest of seven children. There was plenty of love to go around. But his father, was not the type to display much outward affection.
“He would never say ‘I love you,’ anything like that. He never expressed himself,” he recalled.
Yet Scott loved the fact his parents, who came to Lake View Terrace from Alabama in 1964, had established rules.
“We all sat down for dinner. We had to be inside when the [street] lights came on. And my dad always made sure we played sports,” Scott said.
When he started his own family, Scott said he wanted to connect more emotionally with his children even though he appreciated the discipline.
“I learned a lot from my dad, [but there were] some things I missed. Like him talking to us and expressing himself,” Scott said. “I always tried to do that with my kids.
“I did like the strictness. I didn’t understand it back then, but I understand it now. Especially with seven kids. We weren’t bad kids, we were just hard-headed. I was strict with my kids, would discipline them and tell them when they were wrong.”
His empathy for and support of children extends beyond family life. Scott, well known throughout the Valley, gives cops a good name in communities where they are not always liked.
Scott is the president of the Los Angeles Police Baseball Team nonprofit foundation, which plays charity games against other law enforcement teams nationally. They will appear at El Cariso Park in Sylmar on July 8 for their annual “Swing-A-Thon” event for kids and families.
One of the foundation’s recent additions is the “Drugs. Gangs. Crime. Bullying. Just Say No” campaign that Scott created.
“Just Say No” provides prizes like bicycles and Dodgers tickets. with help from sponsors including Walmart, Coca-Cola and Costco, for kids who go on the foundation’s website — lapdbaseballteam.com — sign a pledge, and enter a contest for a monthly drawing.
The pledge consists of eight lines written by Scott: “I pledge to say no to drugs. I pledge to say no to joining a gang. I pledge to say no to crime. “I pledge to say no to bullying. I will honor and respect my parents. I will respect and learn from my teachers. I will respect and be courteous to others. “I will respect and believe in myself.”
The concept came from basically working the streets as a patrol officer for 18 years in the West Valley, Mission and Devonshire divisions and seeing the kind of trouble kids can get into, Scott said.
“I would talk to some of those kids to find out what happened — and where did things go wrong. They either didn’t have the parenting or the guidance. Those eight lines, those concepts, pretty much wrap up the things these kids didn’t do. Instead some got into drugs, got into crime, often got on the wrong path.”
He said he lives by two sayings.
“‘If you change one child you’ve done something — so do something.’ I love that. And the other is ‘my goal is to positively impact the lives of our youth one child at a time.’”
When he first widely publicized the “Just Say No” program last August, Scott said he got only 16 pledges. Today he has more than 2,000, he said. Five Valley area schools visited by Scott and the team, including Napa Street Elementary in Northridge and Vaughn Learning Center in San Fernando, have encouraged their students to pledge.
Since joining the force in 1998, Scott has always been motivated to show that police can do more than enforce laws and maintain the peace.
He used to pass out hundreds of Christmas gifts in a toy giveaway program co-sponsored by the department and the Living Hope Church, “though I don’t do it much anymore.”
“The Christmas toy thing became a show, the lines became super long. We had to think of a better way to interact with the kids long-term,” Scott said.
Now he does it through music, baseball clinics, prize giveaways and anything else he can think of to positively interact with youth.
“We rap. We have the kids rap. We do a hula-hoop contest, a dance contest. It’s interacting with the kids and showing them that hey, we are police officers but we get you.’ And it’s changing kids.”
His own three kids are now adults — Michael Jr., 27, who manages a Target store in Valencia; Adriana, 22, who is headed to Carrington College in Phoenix to study sports medicine; and Aaron, 21, now in the Army and stationed in Louisiana.
Michael Jr., was born when Scott was 20 years old and not that far removed from graduating from San Fernando High School. His dream of being an entertainer — he had formed a rap group in high school — was set aside to find a job and provide for his son.
By age 24, Scott was married and working two jobs to support his family that eventually included Adriana and Aaron. He was a salesman for Coca-Cola when, at age 30, he applied for the Los Angeles Police Department. “I was looking for a change in career,” he said.
Even though the marriage did not last (and Scott has not remarried), loving his children and the desire to stay in their lives never went away.
There are not enough father figures for kids today, Scott contends, and “bless those ones who are” whether they’re in the house or not.
“That’s going to make a difference in that child’s life, and how they develop. It’s going to make for a stronger foundation for those kids. A father is the root of the family. That’s my belief. And hats’ off to mothers who have to be mothers and fathers. You sometimes wish you had wish a Happy Father’s Day to a mother who’s taken on that role.”
His children said they appreciate the impact Scott has had in their lives.
Michael Jr. said he was lucky to have Scott in his life because too many kids don’t have fathers — or don’t know them.
“He had a huge influence on me growing up,” he said. “His being a cop was never a problem. I admired him. He was never about being behind a desk. He was about trying to serve the community. As far as wanting to help people, that was something he passed on to all of us.”
His daughter agrees.
“It’s hard to put in words how amazing a dad he’s been,” Adriana said. “He’s always been there. He is caring and thoughtful. His job is tough; it’s scary to think of all the things going on in the world and him not coming home. But he never brought ‘the job’ home. It was safe household.
“He goes above and beyond for everyone every day in the way he wants to help in community. I take that thought with me every day — you want to help others as much possible.”