Officer David Shifren is known as “the professor” by his comrades in the Pittsburgh Police Bureau.
A native of Brooklyn, he is a graduate of University of Pittsburgh’s master of fine arts program. He’s taught creative writing at Pitt, and currently teaches a film-appreciation at Pitt for older adults. He pens Western fantasy and young-adult mystery novels before his noon to 8 shifts as a community resources officers in Pittsburgh’s Zone 4 police station.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill Peduto recognized Shifren, 65, of Squirrel Hill for founding the Pittsburgh Police Junior Chess Club, which has expanded through the city and serves as a mentoring program for city children.
“In chess you’re always thinking three moves ahead,” Peduto said. “You gave (kids) that opportunity, you made it a success and then you said every child in the city of Pittsburgh should have that same opportunity. For that you’re being recognized as the city of Pittsburgh employee of the month.”
Shifren was lauded by police brass during a short ceremony in Peduto’s conference room and by Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs, who helps with the chess club.
Shifren, who taught chess in Hoboken, N.J., said a New York organization found that kids who played chess became better, law-abiding students.
“Their motto was, ‘Kids who play chess learn to think before they move,’ which is perfect and seemed appropriate here,” he said. “The support I’ve gotten has been tremendous, from the Bureau of Police, from Josh. It wouldn’t have been possible at all without that kind of help.”
Dobbs said Shifren invited him to play chess with the kids.
“I remember the first Tuesday I walked in and to see the looks on the kids faces,” he said. “Just to see a police officer in the city interacting with the youth, I think it definitely changed their attitude and their demeanor when they walked into the library and were really open to learning the game of chess.”