Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Local Black Heroes in honor of Black History Month. Please join us on social media and throughout the month on our website to learn more about the impact local heroes have in your community.
Growing up in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina, Vic Ledbetter knew from a young age that he wanted to be a lawyer, just like the civil rights activist and famous O.J. Simpson criminal defense attorney Johnnie Cochran.
After high school, Ledbetter attended North Carolina Central University, an HBCU, or Historically Black College and University. Here he earned his degree in Political Science focusing on pre-law, building the foundation needed to become a lawyer. Little did he know, his career trajectory would change after being recruited by Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS).
Ledbetter joined KDPS with the intention of serving 4 years in police work. He would use this time to, “…gain all kinds of information and knowledge to become an effective lawyer.” 25 years later, he retired from KDPS as a Captain and is now the Director of the Law Enforcement Training Center at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s (KVCC) Law Enforcement Academy.
Police Academy and Anti-Racism Work
KVCC’s police academy is the only program in Michigan that devotes an entire week in its cadet training to racial sensitivity, doubling the State’s minimum requirement. Ledbetter’s training digs deep into critical topics such as implicit bias, de-escalation, and cultural awareness. It even includes racial healing circles. “We talk about everything that has happened to cause a divide between races in this world. That’s important for cadets who go out and deal with people of color,” Ledbetter says.
Ledbetter’s cadets learn how to, “…treat people of color with dignity and respect… The building blocks of closing the gap between law enforcement and those we serve.” He focuses on growth and change, quoting Maya Angelou’s philosophy, “When you know better, you do better.”
Mentors and Legacy
When asked, he says that naming only one person that influenced his life “would be a disservice” to all the Black men who have mentored him over the years. “It takes a village,” he mentions, referring to the many people in both North Carolina and Michigan that guided him to where he is today.
Throughout Ledbetter’s career as a Public Safety Officer, he’s tried to be a living example of how to treat people. “I didn’t judge…I held people responsible for what they did, but I didn’t talk down to them,” he mentions, referring to his interactions while on duty.
Having dedicated his life to public service and giving back to his community, Ledbetter considers himself a “servant-leader.”
He wants the world to be a better place and has spent his life in service towards that goal. Undoubtedly, the future of our communities and our law enforcement are brighter because of his leadership and dedication.
Find Local Black Heroes throughout the month of February on social media and on our website and visit ThinkBigToday.org/Volunteer for more information about how you can ignite the power and potential of youth in Southwest Michigan.