Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the appointment of Lateef Johnson-Kinsey as the first-ever Director of the Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence. Johnson-Kinsey is a Syracuse pastor and school administrator with 15 years of experience in violence intervention, corrections and youth counseling and engagement.
Mayor Walsh unveiled plans for the new office in his 2022 State of the City address in late January. It will strengthen the City’s efforts to reduce and respond to community gun violence. Johnson-Kinsey will coordinate the City’s various anti-gun violence initiatives, support community-based intervention and prevention services, and facilitate data-driven and evidence-based solutions to reduce gun violence in order to create safe and empowered neighborhoods in the City of Syracuse.
“Lateef is already working on the streets around our city to foster safer neighborhoods and is the right choice to lead the Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence. His work in and for the city is representative of his deep commitment to bettering our community and providing the best possible quality of life for all of our residents,” said Mayor Walsh. “I also want to acknowledge the National Action Network (NAN) Syracuse Chapter for its advocacy for this office. I believe the fight against gun crime is one that we can win, and in doing so, Syracuse will serve as a national model for how a city can successfully turn back gun violence.”
“Violence does not stop because of a person. It takes people – a community working together, organizations working together and neighborhoods working together,” said Johnson-Kinsey. “I am honored to take on this important mission for our city and look forward to working with Mayor Walsh, our law enforcement partners and members of the community. It feels like a fulfillment of a lifetime of experiences.”
Bishop Dr. H. Bernard Alex, President of the NAN, Syracuse Chapter, said of Johnson-Kinsey, “Lateef will bring to the Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence a collective of skill sets that will bring together those organizations already doing the work, an understanding of data collection and trends and an authenticity of care for the City of Syracuse. He has a heart and passion for this City; along with the support of City Administration, NAN and so many others, so we can start this great assignment and earnestly work towards change and safety for the residents of Syracuse.”
In this role, Johnson-Kinsey will focus on synchronizing anti-gun violence efforts by working alongside residents, community stakeholders, consultants, law enforcement and violence prevention experts to identify factors that perpetuate gun violence in Syracuse. Working out of an office on the first floor of Syracuse City Hall, he will work to implement strategic solutions informed by proven best practices and which produce measurable outcomes.
Johnson-Kinsey presently serves as the Senior Pastor of Well of Hope Church, where he also acts as the Executive Director of Transforming Lives and Community, Inc., a non-profit community program that primarily serves the Southside of Syracuse. In his faith leadership and community engagement roles, he is a participant of Syracuse Cure Violence (Syracuse SNUG), a part of the Multi-Disciplinary Intervention Team working with community members serving probation or who are on parole, and partners with Syracuse Save Our Youth (SOY).
In addition to his role as Senior Pastor, he is the Dean of Students at Syracuse Academy of Science. As Dean of Students, he assists in behavioral, cultural and athletic department support for students, staff and parents, working alongside other school personnel to provide the best possible opportunities for student growth and development, both educationally and personally.
Johnson-Kinsey began his career as a correctional officer with the Pennsylvania Department of Correction. He was a team member of the Special Needs Unit and served on the Specialized Unit to De-escalate Violence.
Johnson-Kinsey went on to act as a Youth Educator and Program Coordinator at Vera House, where he became a certified national trainer for the Mentors and Violence Prevention Program. Continuing his career as a behavioral specialist, he joined Catholic Charities of Onondaga County to provide support and mentoring services to assigned youth in schools and the community, and served as the Program Director of the Building Men Program at Frazer Middle School in the Syracuse City School District.
Johnson-Kinsey serves as an Executive Board Member of Southwest Community Connections and, in addition, works as part of the Community Development sub-committee.
He begins in his new role on Wednesday, April 13.