J U LY 2 0 1 6 A U G
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Strengthening Partnerships with Law Enforcement At a time when research indicates teens are the population least trusting of law enforce- ment, Clubs have made a commitment to serve more teens and are taking intentional steps to provide solutions in how communities and law enforcement positively engage each other. So, where do we stand now? In 2015, our Clubs served 559,000 teen members, 83% of whom are on track to gradu- ate from high school. In addition, more than 20,000 Club members participated in law en- forcement-sponsored sports programming. In February 2016, more than 60% of our Move- ment’s non-military organizations participated in a survey on relationships with law enforce- ment (SEE TEXT BOX 1 FOR MORE DE- TAILS). Results showed that the vast majority of the organizations surveyed have existing part- nerships, and most of the ones that don’t would like to establish them. While the survey provides us a point of reference for targeted efforts, it also brings to the forefront several promising practices that are derived from partnering with local law enforce- ment agencies. For example, organizations with law enforcement in Club leadership positions appear to have the deepest partnerships, helping to foster a litany of innovative strategies to en- sure community safety, such as locating Clubs in police sub-stations, providing fixed-post officers in Clubs, and enabling police academy cadets to rotate through Clubs. Law enforcement officers also serve as role models to youth through Clubs’ existing pro- grams. Recent efforts in our St. Louis Clubs – where police have been frequent subjects of protests in the two years since Michael Brown’s death in nearby Ferguson – resulted in “Opera- tion Polar Cops,” a program that uses a truck retrofitted to look like a typical ice cream truck dressed in police blue to give away ice cream to youth. Efforts like these introduce officers as positive role models in a fun, approachable en- vironment for our youth. We have also seen success when focusing on meeting the needs of high-risk youth. In July, Team USA basketball star Carmelo An- thony hosted a town hall dialogue at the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Los Angeles’ Challengers. The world-famous New York Knicks player was
joined by new BGC Metro Los Angeles CEO Cal Lyons, members of the Team USA men’s and women’s basketball teams, community leaders, representatives from the LAPD, and local youth for a discussion entitled “Leader- ship Together: A Conversation with our Sons & Daughters.” The conversation touched on relevant social topics such as gun violence and youth perceptions of law enforcement, and was capped off by Anthony making a donation to the Challenger Club. This kind of local activ- ism on a global scale is a critical part of our advocacy efforts and will remain a key pri- ority moving forward. It also serves as a re- minder that Boys & Girls Clubs are often the primary resources that our members turn to for comfort, guidance, and perspective, par- ticularly during the troubled and confusing times in which we live. Youth Attitudes Toward Law Enforcement The survey also asked Club executives about their perceptions of youth attitudes toward law enforcement. Three-quarters of organizations reported that youth attitudes and behaviors toward law enforcement have improved since they have developed rela- tionships with these groups, and that youth make positive statements about and initiate conversations with law enforcement. Club executives believe that most youth did not seem uncomfortable around law enforcement officers, and that almost half of youth in their organizations aspire to be a law enforcement officer when they grew up. Knowing what our executives think that the youth they serve feel is one thing, but what do our members actually believe? A March 2016 survey of nearly 1,800 teens (SEETEXT BOX 2 FORMORE DETAILS) found that most youth had not interacted with law enforcement in the last 12 months, and more than twice as many youth had seen or had a positive experience than those who had seen or had a negative experience with law enforcement. Youth generally had posi- tive opinions about local police, but a large group believed that law enforcement officers were unfair toward people of color and more than half felt afraid to interact with officers.
Coupled with recent events of violence and destruction that have pervaded our culture and shaken our belief system, these statistics under- score the need for strong, collaborative partner- ships between local law enforcement and the communities they serve. Fortunately, Boys & Girls Clubs are optimally positioned to build upon these relationships. Existing Partnerships Our Clubs and our national organization have a long and positive relationship with in- stitutions that are focused on improving the lives of our children, including law enforcement at the local and federal levels, and we are well- positioned to increase this impact. Clubs have established trust with youth, are located in the communities with the most need, and often fa- cilitate community connections and serve as safe havens, even in times of unrest and violence. At the federal level, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has partnered with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs (OJJDP) since the program’s infancy in the mid- 1980s to develop, promote, support, and grow our Targeted Outreach program. Our organiza- tions work collaboratively with a network of lo- cal Clubs, courts, police, juvenile justice and so- cial service agencies, community organizations, and schools to identify, recruit, and mainstream at-risk youth into Club programs as a diversion from delinquent activity. We have also jointly hosted and convened the National Gang Sym- posium on several occasions. Today, OJJDP funding supports not only the Targeted Outreach program, but local Boys & Girls Club mentoring programs serving at- risk and high-risk youth in underserved com- munities nationwide. This year alone, BGCA will provide OJJDP pass-through funding to about 1,500 local Boys & Girls Clubs to deliver mentoring programs and services to more than 30,000 youth in many of America’s most chal- lenging communities, including Native youth, military-connected youth, and delinquent and/ or gang affiliated youth. As a result of this historical partnership with OJJDP, countless Clubs have been provided the opportunity to successfully focus on reaching more children who are especially vulnerable to the adverse impact that conditions of poverty and social neglect have upon youth and their families, and to reach them more often with impact.
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