Graduation day for North Central students participating in Youth/Police Initiative | Community Spirit
One dozen students from North Central High School were applauded by Spokane Police Thursday as they graduated from the fifth Youth Police Initiative class.
Youth Police Initiative, or YPI, is to enhance police officer understanding of the beliefs, values and experiences of local youth, and to promote positive police/youth interaction – and it appears to be doing just that.
“My favorite part of the program was meeting the officers and learning how they're more like the kids than they seem,” said Krista Moize, one of Thursday's YPI graduates. “The cops were really interesting and really funny.”
Participating youth are selected by local community leaders. This time it was Jenny Jamison, who runs the school's “Outside the Box” program in connection with the YMCA.
“I went to the graduation of a previous class at the West Central Community Center and I knew almost all the students in that class. Seeing them later on throughout the rest of the year, it made a huge impact on how they viewed cops,” said Jamison. It wasn't long after that she asked YPI director and Spokane Police spokeswoman Jen DeRuwe to host a class for North Central.
“It's given them a different perspective on what they're doing, and it's actually given the cops a different perspective on the kids,” said Jamison. “I think the most important thing that needs to be portrayed is that the kids that participate in this are really good kids, they're just misunderstood. This program helps remove that misunderstanding.”
The Youth Police Initiative has also been implemented in the police departments of Baltimore, Boston, White Plains and Yonkers. According to the North American Family Institute, the YPI program proactively assists officers in reducing street violence in the following ways:
- 50% increase in police officers' understanding of adolescent development.
- 65% increase in police officer knowledge of urban socialization issues.
- 50% improvement in the use of effective communication strategies involving deescalation, crisis intervention and problem solving skills.
For the last week, North Central students and officers have had the opportunity to discuss and dispel stereotypes with each other and participate in team-building exercises and reality-based training scenarios.
Police Chief Frank Straub was at the graduation and explained his ultimate goal for the future. “I hope we all leave with the ability to see each other on the street in a few days, weeks or months and talk to each other.”