- Establish positive, open lines of communication between youth and law enforcement officers.
- Educate students about the challenges of police work and the scope and limits of police authority.
- Provide students and officers with a forum to discuss their differences and begin to address any negative perceptions and stereotypes.
- Provide an opportunity for officers to gain a better understanding of the young people they serve and their perceptions of law enforcement, crime, and safety in their communities.
- Allow students and officers the opportunity to work together to identify attitudinal, behavioral, and action goals they can work toward to improve police-community relations.
In response to the Los Angeles civil unrest following the Rodney King verdicts, Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) piloted a simulation activity called Police Patrol with thousands of middle school youth throughout the city.
Through pre- and post-surveys of youth, officers, and parents, Police Patrol demonstrated great potential to increase positive police-community relations and to educate youth about the scope and limits of police authority. Officer surveys showed an increase in positive attitudes about young people, the importance of positive role models in these youth’s lives, and the power of opening lines of communication between youth and police in protecting the safety of communities.
CRF, with funding from the Morrison & Foerster Foundation, has partnered with LAPD to launch Cops & Kids: Working Together for Peace on the Streets, a new program with three components:
This simulation activity launches the program for middle school youth and officers. Students take the roles of citizens making typical police calls and of officers responding to the calls. Sworn officers help the junior officers gain a very basic understanding of police procedures.
Teachers are provided with a set of simple lessons that prepare students to choose an issue related to public safety and take “civic actions” to try to address that issue.
Public Safety Civic Action Project
Students work in small groups to improve public safety in their schools and communities.
CRF implements Cops & Kids using two models:
Schools work with local police departments to arrange for officers to come to classrooms to do the Police Patrol simulation. One or two officers per classroom are required. Teachers or volunteers can facilitate Police Patrol with minimal training. Officers can gather together before going to classrooms for a brief meeting to overview the activity. After Police Patrol, teachers use the classroom lessons and then engage students in the Public-Safety Project (a civic action project). Officers should be invited to hear about students’ ideas and offer advice along the way.
To launch a district- or city-wide Cops & Kids program, gather students from different schools and host a Cops & Kids conference. Break-out groups of 15-20 students, one facilitator, and one or two officers do Police Patrol and the discussion activity. Conferences can start with a general assembly with police and public officials welcoming students. In Los Angeles, the conference is held at the LAPD Academy for up to 400 students with volunteers who have been trained to facilitate and 20-30 officers. After the conference, students return to schools and participate in the classroom lessons the Public-Safety Project.
Consider including a session for parents to participate in Police Patrol in either model. Not only do parents enjoy the interaction, they learn about police procedures and make positive relationships with local law enforcement. Officers benefit by learning more about specific concerns in the community.
Technical Assistance and Training
Los Angeles County
Outside of Los Angeles County
CRF can provide the following:
- Teacher/Facilitator Training: Face-to-face: 2 hours for Police Patrol, 4-6 hours for Police Patrol and Lessons/Public Safety Project
- Officer Briefing: 1 hour face-to-face or online
- Conference Planning and Support: CRF can assist you in planning and implementing a Cops & Kids kick-off event.
Research indicates that the most significant predictor of negative attitudes about the police is previous negative interaction. Not surprisingly, positive interactions with the police serve as the most common factor in the development of positive attitudes. Research in the areas of delinquency prevention and the development of pro-social values among early adolescents offers guidance about what kinds of police-youth contacts are most effective. They include those that help young people develop significant relations with officers that are integrated into a child’s educational development and those that provide students with a realistic and balanced presentation of the role officers play in society and in their communities.