Newark Policing Initiative Aims to Bolster Relationship Between Youth, Law Enforcement

"We want young people to see that uniform of the Newark police and feel proud and safe," said Newark Department of Public Safety Director Brian O'Hara. "We want them to see it in such a way that they too want to grow up and become Newark police officers."

The precinct that develops the winning initiative will have a grant established in its honor, and the program will be implemented citywide with funding from the Newark Police Foundation and through private donations. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office will also contribute funding to assist the Newark Police Department with the implementation of these programs. 

The program follows suit with a similar initiative launched on Thursday by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's office. Grewal's office plans to offer $165,000 in grants to police departments to fund innovative programs that will foster stronger police-community relations. 

"This program is part in parcel of rebuilding that trust," Grewal said.

The idea for the program was sparked when Grewal said he visited a school and called on young students to come up with one word that represented law enforcement from their perspective. 

Their responses, the attorney general said, left him speechless. 

"The answers I got were 'fearful'; 'scared'; 'abuse,'" he said. "To a young person, I didn't hear anything positive, and it broke my heart." 

The goal now is to have law enforcement interact and engage with their respective communities in a more positive, nonthreatening setting, according to officials. 

“These grants represent a significant investment in our communities, in young people, and in public safety,” Grewal said. “We need to have our young people—and indeed all of our residents—meet the dedicated officers of our police forces, not when the officers are making an arrest or responding to a tragedy but in a more relaxed and positive atmosphere. That is how you build trust and relationships between police and the diverse communities they serve.”

With Newark's program now underway, Rev. Ronald Slaughter of St. James AME Church, who also serves as the Newark Police Division's deputy director of Community Relations, said initiatives aimed to foster better relationships with the community are better served by reaching the youth.  

"When youth are able to engage law enforcement on a daily routine, then that establishes a relationship at a core age," Slaughter told TAPinto Newark. "So, when they grow up, they are not intimidated or fearful of law enforcement but welcome law enforcement because of the positive influence that they had." 

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-06-18 05:25:24 -0700