March 31, 2017 by and

Policing Project Launches Youth Engagement Pilot Programs

Emily Several and Destiny Dike Working with Students at Chamberlain High School © Policing Project

The Policing Project is conducting pilot projects in Tampa, Florida and Camden, New Jersey to foster police-youth relations. Based on the report of the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the programs focus on bringing youth and police together to work collaboratively to solve an issue in the community regarding policing.

In Tampa, the Policing Project began by working with every 9th grade student at Chamberlain High School to discuss the “glows” (positives) and “grows” (areas of improvement) regarding their perception of the Tampa Police Department. We received incredible engagement and interest from the students. The Policing Project analyzed the data gathered during these sessions to uncover the main areas youth identified as needing improvement. From there, the Policing Project worked with the school administration to put together a committee of 10 students to work directly with 5 officers to address youth and community concerns. Officers from the Tampa Police Department will work with the youth committee to build relationships and eventually develop a policy regarding these concerns.

In Camden, the Policing Project is piloting an after school program at Woodrow Wilson High School, working closely with the coach of the high school football team.  In Camden, the Policing Project invited students to think broadly about the various roles that the police play in a community, rather than by diving into more personal experiences with policing right away. The students have dug deep into both how and why a strong and healthy relationship between the police and citizens helps a community thrive. Next, students will examine their own experience, to enable the group to think more specifically about how they can work with police officers to improve some of the challenges they see in Camden. Then, as in Tampa, youth and officers will come together to address policing and youth relations in a tangible way.

The Tampa and Camden projects are designed to have police and youth investigate and challenge misperceptions about one another, give students a voice in how they are policed, and build positive relationships between youth and officers. These pilots are designed to create a scalable and transferable model for similar programs throughout the nation.  We already have a number of departments asking to bring this youth curriculum to their jurisdictions.