Police reach out to community through neighborhood policing, youth camps

In Ferguson, Missouri, many say a lack of communication and trust between the public and police has lead to protests turning violent.

Madison and surrounding police departments continue to build on their relationship with the community.

From playing basketball, to having coffee and answering questions -- area officers work to help the public understand what's behind the badge.

Wednesday, Madison Police and six other area police departments got together, giving kids an inside look at what they do.

The Latino Youth Academy will teach kids of Latino races what police do and why they do it -- starting a positive relationship with law enforcement early.

"We can build better relationships with them and create some trust," said Sgt. Lori Chalecki with the City of Madison Police.

The goal of the camp is to help them understand.

"Understanding of what it is that we do and why we do it. So, that if they ever do encounter us that they will maybe understand a little bit better," said Chalecki.

Michel Avalos is in the middle of her first day at the academy.

"It's interesting because I've never -- I don't have anybody in the family or anything like that, that is with police," said Avalos.

You could say she's learning a lot more than just traffic stops and CSI.

"I thought they were gonna be really strict, but they were really cool to be with, and they were really funny," said Avalos.

"That's a very traditional standard answer that we get from a lot of the kids. We come here, most of us in softer uniforms so they get to see a different side of us," said Chalecki.

The sight of officers with youth in the community isn't rare.

"We reach out ... to senior bingo all the way down to the youth academies because we want everyone to know what's going on, crime affects all races and all creeds and all backgrounds," said Officer Kimberly Alan with the City of Madison Police.

Alan is a neighborhood officer out on the streets every day.

An important relationship to build, especially in light of events in Ferguson, Missouri where communication between protestors and law enforcement hasn't gone well.

"I hope that's why when we had the big protest at the capital or other officer involved shootings that have been controversial or ones that haven't been cause we have communicated so well with our community," said Officer Alan.

Police hope that open conversation is building the relationship and understanding that will make the difference with any controversy or aggression, starting with the youth.

"I think the community policing is probably one of the most important parts in policing in any jurisdiction, and policing shouldn't be a secret. There isn't any reason why people can't know what we do and the reasons why we do it," said Chalecki.

In Madison, each district and some individual neighborhoods have designated officers.

From playing basketball to having a picnic, they're always doing something to strengthen the bond.

If you'd like to meet your neighborhood officer, visit cityofmadison.com


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