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Youth, police join to create a better Albany

On November 6th, Albany Police Chief Stephen Krokoff was joined by Albany Probation’s Laurie Lainhart,  LaSalle’s Bill Wolff, and David Peters from the North American Family Institute to congratulate ten professionals and eleven youth participating in the Youth Police Initiative (YPI) hosted by LaSalle School between October 28th and November 6th.

IMG_1552 croppedIn his remarks to the audience of more than seventy-five, Chief Krokoff said he and his deputy, Assistant Chief of Police Brendan Cox, returned from a meeting in New York City to attend the ceremony signifying his commitment to improving communications between youth and police officers. Chief Krokoff said improved understanding and dialogue between the two groups was essential to breaking down barriers and creating a better Albany. He praised the efforts of the police and youth participating in YPI, and signaled how important this work was to the City of Albany, the department, and him – personally.

For the trainees, it was the completion of the first of four, six-day, courses required for them to become full-fledged trainers in the YPI program. The trainees were from Albany County’s police and probation departments, and the Albany County Juvenile Reporting and Family Center (JRFC). In what was coined a ‘train the trainer’ program, they ‘practiced strategies’ learned from certified YPI trainers with eleven youth who had signed up for the YPI program. This group was from LaSalle School’s Evening Reporting Center, a division of the Albany County JRFC. Certificates of achievement were awarded to each of them recognizing their completion of the YPI program.

IMG_1477 croppedYPI is an evidenced based intervention implemented throughout the Northeast, especially in areas where there are huge issues with long standing conflicts between youth and law enforcement. The initiative pairs youth with police officers, often the ones who patrol their neighborhoods. The two, often polarized groups, share in a leadership-training curriculum that builds positive identity and relationship ties. The goal is to view one another as people, rather than characterize each other with the stereotypical attributes of those groups they are identified with, such as delinquents, cops, etc. The outcome is often that they form relationships and follow up by participating together in activities that help them to better their lives and their community.

Scenarios such as ‘car stops’ were used in this particular YPI session to learn cooperative strategies and demonstrate the value of open lines of communication and understanding to the resolution of interactions having the potential to become adversarial due to the fact that there is very little information to go on at the outset. Participants identified the impact of their personal choices and recognized shared experiences which led to increased respect for themselves and each other.  All sessions were conducted as interactive forums with a high level of youth participation.The program concluded with certificates of achievement being awarded to each teenager certifying that he had completed the YPI program.

The three remaining training sessions will involve new groups of young people from the community that will no doubt offer different and unique challenges that will strengthen each trainee’s skills as a Youth Police Initiative trainer.

The Albany County Juvenile Reporting and Family Center serves Albany County youth and their families identified by the Albany County Department of Probation, Department of Children Youth and Families, or Albany County Family Court as an alternative to detention or youth at risk for juvenile justice difficulties. The program is an expansion of the highly regarded, nationally accredited LaSalle School Evening Reporting Center which has served adolescent males since 2006. LaSalle now collaborates with St. Catherine’s Center for Children and St. Anne Institute in this effort.

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