In highlighting an observed reduced crime rate, Police Commissioner Allen Whylie gave much credit to Belize’s move towards Precinct Policing. Developing a relationship between police and the community they serve is a primary focus of the Youth and Police Initiative or YPI.
One such five day programme took place from Monday, August 19 to Friday 23. Held at mile 21 on the George Price Highway, it featured youth participants from the youth hostel and cadet corps.
The first three days of each programme are used to help prepare youth participants for the interactions with the police officers during which, communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills are worked on, in addition to some points on public speaking and personal presentation. The two groups, youth and police, were brought together on Thursday and Friday for a joint workshop and dialogue. The sessions included role-plays on positive police-community interactions, trust-building exercises, and creating a shared vision for community-police partnerships.
This structured and safe environment allowed for a setting where both youth and police officers were able to reflect on the choices they made thus far to be in their respective positions. Each side grew more human in each other’s eyes to the point where in speaking about their backgrounds very similar stories were shared; from experiences in environments with drugs to having to deal with the repercussions of early pregnancy, working and studying.
At the end of the programme when certificates were handed out it seems that events such as the YPI offer a significant opportunity for positive police/community relations.