Facilitating Opportunity for Understanding between Teens & Law Enforcement
On Friday, July 7, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas hosted "The Law & Your Community", presented by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Community Relations Service for 80 teens from three teen camps: Lakewest, Grand Prairie and Irving YMCAs. "The Law & Your Community" is a nationally recognized hands-on interactive training program for young people ages 13-18 designed to improve their communications with law enforcement officers and their understanding of federal, state, and local laws. Components of the program include citizenship, law literacy and law enforcement engagement.
One might attend an event such as "The Law & Your Community" expecting a somber tone. However, as soon as the presentation started, this presumption was dispelled. While the subject material was treated with an appropriate level of seriousness, the interactivity by the presenter kept the participants engaged. During one segment, the presenter and several of his colleagues demonstrated a role play exercise serving as passengers in a stopped car, while two YMCA counselors served as police officers who had pulled them over. While participants initially looked on at the staged erratic behavior of the passengers and the tense stance of the police officers, they discovered parallels between the situation playing out in front of them and the ones they had heard about on the news.
"The Law & Your Community" brought into conversation the pressures on police officers and the concerns of young people in the metropolitan area. While one event is not enough to eradicate the atmosphere of conflict that can arise in this type of conversation, this event was an important step and is part of wider goal to empower youth through presentations, programs and forums in which they can learn about their rights as citizens and their role in shaping their own community.
The mission of the DOJ Community Relations Service to work with all parties to facilitate mutual understandings and solutions to community challenges is in alignment with the cause of the YMCA to strengthen the foundation of community. The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas looks forward to the opportunity to continue partnering with NOBLE and DOJ in order to foster a culture of respect and understanding between police officers and community members.
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