Virginia officers highlight program to improve interactions with police, youth

Program teaches youth how to interact with police

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Carol Adams is a Richmond law enforcement officer that understands the frustrations that a lot of youth and young adults are feeling since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, which has sparked more than two consecutive weeks of protests and demonstrations in Richmond.

"People have a right to be angry and when you’re in those spaces sometimes that’s not the time to absorb, but when you get all that anger out and you express yourself, now what?” Adams said.

But Adams wants to make sure that the interactions that happen between youth and police, whether it be during a protest in their own neighborhood, remain positive and peaceful.

As a member of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) for more than a decade, the Richmond police officer has been working to cultivate and build healthy interactions and trust between the community and the law enforcement through “The Law & Your Community.”

“One of our main goals is to educate the community and to interact with them,” Carol said. “We go out to community groups, to churches, to schools, to different facilities and we talk about how to interact with law enforcement.”

The Law & Your Community focuses on three main objectives which include citizenship, which provides education about what it means to be apart of representative democracy and the role that citizens play in the community; law literacy which aims to increase the student’s knowledge on crimes teens and young adults are commonly involved with and influence positive decision making; and law enforcement engagement which educates students on how to properly interact with and respond to law enforcement.

This program serves over 60,000 youth through it’s mentoring programs, education, leadership development and safety.

“We cannot explain away a bad interaction, we can’t. The only thing we can do is we can create a new interaction so that you have that to walk away with versus the not so good interaction you had," Carol said.

Kimberly Talley-Bryant is an officer with J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and is an active member of NOBLE. Talley-Bryant says a lot of the mistrust of police that she sees with the youth that she works with stems from the negative experiences and trauma they’ve experienced or have seen others experience from those in positions of authority.

To reinforce the objectives of the Talley-Bryant says teens, and young adults are given opportunities like ride alongs, law enforcement seminars, community walks and time to get to know the person behind the police badge.

"What you don’t understand - you fear. When you look at an officer you don’t see that badge, you get to see the individual, you get to know that person as an individual so just being personable, out there with the community,” Talley-Bryant said. “What do you need? How can we assist? It’s not all about every time you call us there’s that fear.”

“I don’t trust you if I don’t know you, so that means you have to spend some quality time with me and I have to get to know you as a human being,” Adams said. “If you’re a youth and I met you when you were 4 years old, and I’m still apart of your world when you turn 16 or 17, then you trust me and you consider me to be a member of your family and that’s where the trust-building happens."

In the midst of the protesting and clashes with police, they hope that with this program, police and the people they serve can find a middle ground so that every interaction can be a positive one.

“When we get the trust thing right it won’t just be a community and police, it will be {one} community and we all reside and take pride in our community,” Carol said."It’s not just a once in a lifetime encounter, we’re giving positive interactions instead of negative interactions so when you know me as a police officer you just see me as a person in uniform, but when you see me as officer Carol, then you know me I’m not just one in the group."

NOBLE was founded in 1976 and has over 50 chapters and represents over 3,000 members worldwide which are made up of chief executive officers and command-level law enforcement officials at the federal, state, county, municipal law enforcement agencies and criminal justice practitioners.

You can apply to be a member of NOBLE here.

Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.