The Youth and Police initiative offers the police department and community organizations an opportunity to bring about positive changes in their relationships with at-risk youth. The primary goals are to:
- Enhance police officer understanding of the beliefs, values and experiences of local youths
- Ensure that youth develop genuine relationships with and regard for the challenges that police officers face on the job.
Partners for Democratic Change (Partners), is an international NGO with over 20 years of experience in building local capacity to improve governance and civil society through more effective collaboration and technical skills. In 2011 and 2012 they provided training and technical expertise to establish the Youth Police Initiative which builds more effective bridges between law enforcement and the community to achieve the overarching goal of improving citizen security in target communities.
Through this innovative programme, youth participate in role play scenarios, give feedback during debriefings and team up with police trainees to complete course activities and team building exercises. They also receive preparatory training in public speaking, group process and method role playing by trained personnel. The resulting interaction greatly helps officers learn to communicate more effectively, constructively engage with the youth.
A preparation period for youths only is conducted prior to the youth officer training to help prepare youth participants for the interactions, discussions and scenarios. These youth-only sessions build fellowship among the youth and give them time to prepare for the upcoming training with officers.
The programme tries to get police officers to understand the deeper causes of gang-crime and how to best communicate with at-risk youth to make their community security efforts more successful. The YPI programme will prepare the police participants to have a healthier dialogue with the at-risk youth and engage with them in a way that prevents and reduces conflict as opposed to a reactionary punishment-only approach.
Then, the YPI facilitators meet separately with the youth participants for two days to prepare them to interact with their police counterparts. The youth will receive communications, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills, and learn how to improve their public speaking and personal presentation capabilities.
Finally the two groups will be brought together for the remaining two days for a joint workshop and dialogue. The sessions include role-plays on positive police-community interactions, trust-building exercises, and creating a shared vision for community-police partnerships.
Some activities during the actual training involve
- Creating a structured setting for youth to reflect on and discuss the choices they have made thus far in their lives and the subsequent actions both positive and negative.
- Increasing levels of youth confidence, participation and public speaking skills.
- Humanising officers with an opportunity to recount individual circumstances and influences to become police officers.
- Discussing ideal community and police interaction
- Teaching what to do with a police abuse or human rights violations complaint
- Scenario-based exercises to help recruit officers enhance their communication and conflict de-escalation skills when working with inner city youth
- Outlining steps needed to achieve positive community-police relations
- Planning follow-up meetings planning
The objectives are:
- Forging new relationships
- Decrease in incident rates and negative youth/police contact
- Future recruitment development for Police academy
- Improved community communication
- Increase in opportunities for positive police/community relations
- Increase in mutual respect
- Decrease/elimination of cultural stereotypes and biases
In other settings, the YPI programme has proven effective in creating youth leaders and building tangible communication skills, all in an effort to producing successful and productive citizens from within its participants.