Last month, MPD conducted both our Black Youth Academy and our Latino Youth Academy, marking our fifth and sixth years, respectively, for these youth outreach and education programs for area eighth-graders. This year, MPD partnered with Fitchburg, Middleton, and Sun Prairie Police Departments and the 115th Fighter Wing security forces based in Madison, and in past years we have received support from the Dane County Sheriff's Office and University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department as well. Without such partnerships, these week-long youth academies could not have been possible.
While these collaborations are essential to the success of our youth academies, the most important bond is the enduring connection that is formed between the officers and the children who attend each year's academy. "We need these kids as much as they need this academy," said Lt. Lori Chalecki, who spearheads the team effort that is necessary to make the academies possible. "It's been huge to have both city and citizen support for these outreach efforts. Working with our youth in a non-stress environment for several consecutive days allows these kids to form a relationship with officers who are often task-driven when on calls. This helps our officers to advance qualitative engagement without the stressors which can impact and/or influence perceptions of one another. Furthermore, these positive contacts with our youth provides for healthy, symbiotic relationships that benefits both kids and cops."
The first MPD youth academy occurred six years ago with our Latino Youth Academy, and was conceived from the work of a group of volunteer officers that comprised our Amigo en Azul program. These officers recognized that there seemed to be a lack of understanding between officers and youth with whom they had contact in response to various calls for service. In an effort to address this gap of understanding and specific identified need for authentic trust, our youth academies were born. "The perspective these kids give us helps our understanding and empathy while on calls, when making decisions about policing, everything," said Chalecki. "These kids also go back to their neighborhoods as ambassadors who now understand our profession better than most adults."
During the academy, the students are exposed to a variety of topics and are given opportunities to apply what they've learned during scenario-based portions of the academy. The programming is as hands-on and interactive as possible, but the students get a flavor for some of the more mundane but equally important administrative paperwork that comes along with a career in policing as well. Students hear from officers about the paths that led them to a career in policing and share their personal stories and photographs with the students. This is always a highlight as it provides an opportunity for the students to see the human beings behind the badge.
Throughout the weeklong academy, the students learn about and are able to get hands-on experience with the following topics: crime scenes, fingerprints and handcuffs; they meet our mounted patrol and K9 units; trust falls, arrest, interview and interrogations, evidence collection, building clears, internal policing policies, plan for success, 115th fighter wing presentation, finance, forensic casting, communication, problem solving, leadership/followership, report writing, use of force, hiring process, shoot for success and state statutes. They also have a scenario day where they put the skills they have and have learned to the test (driving simulator, provide medical care/emergency first aid, traffic stops, etc.). Whew!
For pictures and videos of the kids participating in the many activities and demonstrations please visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BlackYouthAcademy/
For more information on how to get your kids or kids you know into next year's Black or Latino Youth Academies, please send a short email to email@example.com