L.T. JOE SCHILLACI: The social passion of changing worlds

By Alfonso Corona and Isa Traverso -Burger

Lieutenant Joseph Schillaci of A&E’s
The First 48 reality TV is a veteran
of the Miami Police Department. He
was a Sergeant, a homicide investigator,
undercover narcotics cop and
former Lt. Commander of the Crime
Suppression Unit. Now, he is a certified
Nonviolence Specialist Counselor
and a Motivational Speaker,
proudly spreading the Kingian Non
Violence Philosophy. His passion
for greater awareness, -accompanied
by his personal experience,
is a key source in his mission to
eradicate verbal and physical violence.
Read this exclusive interview
for Distrikt to learn how he strives
to make a difference with The Unit.
He is currently finishing his book,
and when it comes out, we highly
suggest you read about Little Jasmine;
if that doesn’t change your life, nothing will.

Lieutenant, can you please explain your transition to this mission?
I do it because I have a purpose that I want to deliver, a solution to many problems
that are violence, prostitution and drug addiction. I’ve come up with this
solution not reading books, TV or magazines but from experience.
I’ve lived a life fulfilled. I’ve seen a lot: beatings, kidnapping, shootings, and -an
awful lot. Through good and bad I have developed this philosophy of making a
difference, getting the word out to schools and churches.
The main reason I left narcotics, the vice, the street, to come to The Unit is because
it’s the heart of the city, not a funnel. So many people can be reached;
nothing is more exciting in my life. That’s what I want to give back to the community.
This Unit has the ability to wrap their arms around kids that can cross
the line or are in process. I speak from the heart; I know what happens to a child
from when he’s 6 to 25 years old.
When I speak as ‘We’ it means the whole society. People put a stamp on violence,
but it’s not only murder and robbery, it’s also verbal. People get shot for
what they say. Most murders that occur happen because of what comes out the
victim’s mouth. I teach to communicate with each other; there is a right way to
do it. If we bumped into each other, light up and talk, alternatives to violence
are the clue.

How does that equate to this Unit?
This Unit is the spaceship that drives that message into our society, community, schools, and churches. We all have the same
passion and beliefs, guys do presentations, explore and reach out to kids, on how we can make a difference, so they can avoid
the crossing to No Man’s Land. Violence is not a normal part of life. I’ve seen a child stepping on a body to cross to the other side
of the street, he didn’t even acknowledge the corpse, and that is not normal behavior. Physical and verbal violence are abnormal
For example, The Police Athletic League goes out to schools and recruits kids into their program, to work with them and provide
alternatives. It’s vital that they become involved, become writers, sport coaches, athletes. The mentality has to stop being: “I can’t
play football, I go to sell drugs”. People think it just happens in bad areas, and it’s not true, it’s nationwide.
20 years ago I realized there were many things I wanted to try: play the piano; write a book, etc. I achieved both, I’m not the greatest
one but I tried. Find a passion, get the experience, pay it forward, and give it. What a waste to have knowledge and not give it to
someone else! I just want to plant the seeds; I have to believe that it will grow into something positive.

What are the key factors to find that passion?
We all have a passion. I speak on behalf of me, what’s worked for me,
I’ve had experiences and people pointing out my passion, pointing out
what I’m about, you have this ability, just tap into it. I’ve learned that,
through the passing of my mother and homicide investigations. Everyday
we wake up, there’s a beautiful sunrise, you close your eyes, and
there’s the sunset. It scares me to waste time. The point being, you
don’t have to be special, just raise your level of awareness. A lot of
people are afraid of dying and death, but they’re really afraid of living.
What are the facts that changed your life vision from 15 years ago?
From the time I was 5 or 6 I had this unbelievable profound passion to
talk to people. My mom was like that. There was a case not long ago
where we had to bring justice to a murder; everyone gave up on the
suspect, until I got him to confess. That made me realize that it was
because of my respect towards people.
How did you decide to become a policeman?
I was 8. I was playing football on the street and the ball went under this
police car, and he said: “you have to be careful where the ball ends.”
When I looked at that man I knew what I wanted to be, he became my
Godfather, Joseph Chancey, and the reason why I became a policeman.
I always say, wear your uniform proudly, but more importantly
your heart. It’s not your badge, authority or gun that gives you power,
it’s your heart.

In some Latin American countries, Mexico and Venezuela for example, we are
fearful of some cops.
You wear a badge of honor, you have tools, you can take away the freedom, or the
life of someone, it’s a tremendous responsibility and power. I have had to do both,
what I’ve learned, especially in the shooting, is that I went home and I cried, and
cried, and cried. It felt good to tell people, but it hurt. It’s okay to be a person, just
because I use a uniform doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings, I’m not a robot. You’re
going to make mistakes and hurt. It’s okay to be mad, cry at what you saw, and
okay to talk about it.
How do you persuade a society that revolves around money to care about other
Educate society; raise the level of awareness. Violence, -both physical and verbalis
NOT normal. Youngsters who are likely to get into trouble live day-to-day, looking
for the ‘bling’, not thinking about tomorrow. The propaganda teaches us that
consumerism is the way. “I am not going to be able to have those shoes, jeans,
car… I want to be like my classmates, like the celebrities.” Statistically, from the
ages of 16 to 25, sooner or later, you land in prison or get killed if you get into drug
Priorities are alert on not-so-positive thinking, fancy cars and money, do you
I don’t want to stereotype but money, jewelry, fancy houses, you don’t have to
have that to be successful, some kids realize that. Being bitter about what you
don’t have is not a normal behavior, the nervous system shuts down from all stress
and you end up not enjoying life.
Parts of society don’t know this. How do you teach them?
Dr. Martin Luther King, my mentor, is a driving force behind much of what I talk.
You just have to believe in it.
If you could be in charge of the educational system what lessons would you
To do at least one kind thing a day, -how hard is it to smile at somebody?
Impose unconditional love and respect towards each other.
Crime prevention and awareness of surroundings, -Don’t be naïve.
Take the time to learn about each other instead of judging.
Believing that This Unit is the heart of city.