SPOKANE, Wash. – The Youth Police Initiative aims to teach local students how to make good choices and build relationships with law enforcement at an early age.
The program has been around for a few years. It was originally designed for high school students and now the focus has shifted to middle school students. Law enforcement is going into classrooms, and into communities, meeting young kids face-to-face and building stronger bonds.
"Ultimately our goal is to keep kids out of the criminal justice system and build those relationships of trust," said Spokane Police Officer Jenn DeRuwe. "Instead of being scared, instead of being afraid they know that there are police officers that they can talk to."
DeRuwe said to do that they wanted to reach kids at younger ages so they began doing the program for middle school students. Officers hope to become role models to these students, as they fight a negative perception some have of law enforcement officers.
"Kids as they are beginning their teenage years that's really when they are forming their perceptions of and they've heard it from the media, they've heard it from their parents and the world around them, but they are really impressionable right now and so really we can access them in the middle school and high school age, we are forming those opinions that they can have later in life," DeRuwe said.
Just half way through the fifth day of the YPI program, some students are already changing their view on police.
"All the things going around how police are these bad people and are out to get other races it just makes me feel good that I can trust these officers that I am talking to," said eighth grader Tasia Sirmans.
It is a message officers hope will stick with these students as they intend to stick with them.