By: Jacqueline Miles
“We are trying to get the word out to a group of young people who can spread the word throughout our community,” began Chief Alexander.
“This is just the beginning of our efforts to get the word out to the younger generation.” He said.
The three hour five day program is designed to connect young people with law enforcement, giving them an understanding of what they should do if they are stopped by an officer. “It’s important for them to understand why they are stopped and that they do have rights. A lot of times they will say, I know my rights, but we want to make sure that they do know them. It is our hope that when they are stopped, they will have a more positive response as oppose to a negative response,” said Chief Alexander.
There will be fourteen presenters including Chief Alexander that will be giving classes. “Lakeview will be there giving classes such as emotional /traumatic intervention prevention and group setting with counselors that will deal with conflict resolution. Then we will get into when things go wrong and the police have to be called-what do you do now? There’s a reason why we are there, and we break down when you are stopped and you are on a corner, when they come to your house and you are arrested. Even if you feel like what they did was wrong, there’s a complaint process that we deal with– officer misconduct. Then we bring it in to help them understand what this is all about. We’ve got pastors, Civil Rights leaders and various organizations that are involved in this that is reaching out to help us reach kids in a positive manner.”
Children from the ages of 11 to 19 are involved in the Academy program. “It is this age group that we have found are most negative in a situation. The adolescent ages are looking to explore and exercise the celebrity that they found out they have.” said Chief Alexander. “ Fifteen years and up are independent and they don’t want you in their business and when they see you, most of the time you are going to cramp their style; perhaps even infringing on some fun they want to have. We recognize that kids perceive police differently at different age groups. We are working with the most difficult age group; the most hard core where problems exist,” said Chief Alexander. “There should always be a relationship between the youth and police. “It is my hope that when this project is complete, we will have something that is automatically ingrained into the community and it will be funded and supported from now on.”
Although this is the first year for the police academy in the City of Police Department, under previous administration, this program was done as an outreach. “Under Faith and Justice Partnership I’ve been doing this for a long time-it’s just the first time I’ve brought it into the department.”
On hand to welcome the students and give positive re-enforcement was Mayor Ashton Hayward. “All of you have bright futures and you need to know that.” He said. “Chief Alexander and his team here, and all of the men and women that serve in the great City of Pensacola, they care about you and your future. I encourage you to reach out. They want to have a relationship with you.”
Elades Sampson, president of the NAACP also talked to the young people about the involvement of the youth in the NAACP. “We have a youth council that is active. “We want you to come and join us. We have young entrepreneurs that are a part of our team. A young man by the name of Thomas Booker has a business called ‘Just deserts’ and will be providing deserts for our annual banquet.” Youth that are a part of the NAACP are trained not only in business, but also in how to handle themselves in situations involving their rights as human beings.