youth Voice in Policing

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Public safety leaders have long recognized that robust youth engagement can lead to overall stronger police-community relations, while at the same time helping young people resist peer pressure toward problematic behavior. For these reasons, policing agencies have invested in a range of programs designed to foster stronger ties with youth in their communities. Though many impressive initiatives have been launched—from police-athletic leagues to know-your-rights seminars to junior police academies—few programs have prioritized youth voice and experience or engaged them in collaborative problem-solving.

Beginning in 2016, the Policing Project launched the Police-Youth Engagement Program in high schools in Camden, New Jersey and Tampa, Florida. The program has two main goals: to bring a group of students and officers together to build relationships in a neutral space, and then to support the group as they collaboratively identify and work to solve a shared concern around policing.

Over the course of the program, the students and officers get to know one another and build relationships that go beyond the classroom. The program concludes with the students presenting their collaborative solution to school and police officials—granting the youth a real opportunity to have their voice heard and to proactively engage in democratic governance.

In Fall 2018, the Policing Project released our Youth Engagement Guidebook, funded in part by the U.S. DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The guidebook takes what we learned in the first two iterations of our youth program and provides a road map for any policing agencies, nonprofits, or schools looking to bring this powerful work to their communities.

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