A panel of seven teens from across the country (including PHS senior Tahleeya Raphael) recently released recommendations to help improve relationships between youth and police.
Raphael and the other panelists are among 5,500 youth and 3,000 police officers who graduated from the Youth and Police Initiative in 38 cities across the U.S. They were selected to the YPI National Youth Council as part of a pilot program.
The group met virtually for two hours per week from October through mid-December to develop their recommendations and then met in Boston in January to record their ideas.
The seven recommendations are:
1. Include voices of youth in dialogues about police reform.
2. Create specialized education and training for officers and set a minimum standard for training across the nation. “A lot of things could have been prevented if there was a standard,” Raphael stated in the video.
3. Hire more diverse police personnel – across race, gender, sexual orientation.
4. Address police officer trauma. “Police deserve a chance to express themselves more as humans. A lot of people dehumanize them,” Raphael said.
5. Explore responses to 911 calls. Does the call need a social worker, mental health professional etc. Provide officers with specialized training so they can better identify signs of mental health issues.
6. Reduce the militarization of police. Council members shared that when officers appear tough and armed with various weapons, it can create a scary environment, push people away and make them defensive.
7. Increase community policing.
While each panelist spoke on multiple recommendations in the video, Raphael feels community policing is one of the most important. She shared the following after her experience.
“Instead of teaching kids to be afraid of police and watch out for them, they can be your friend and protector. The police won’t feel they have to be on-guard and disconnected from the people they are sworn to protect,” she said. “I feel this would definitely benefit the youth community in Poughkeepsie because we are the future and we can still pave the way for positive representation with police.”
Raphael said that during the process she realized that while each of the council members came from different places and environments, “The police experiences we had were not so different and, all of us could make a change, no matter how small, to push us toward the change needed for police officers and their communities.”
Jon Geuss, school resources officer at PHS, said that many of the things recommended by the council are already being implemented in the city of Poughkeepsie. “These children raise some very valid concerns,” he said. “Can we create youth listening panels in the schools where we can address and discuss these issues with concerned students?”
Participating in the council was a good experience for Raphael.
“Now that I’ve met with other representatives, I’ve come to respect police much more and respect people’s different opinions and experiences when facing police,” she said.