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Youth Police Initiative: Building a bridge of understanding

On Thursday evening, August 11th, LaSalle Albany hosted a program and dinner to congratulate all associated with completing a five-day YouthYPI Invitation 081116 modified Police Initiative (YPI)  session held at the agency.

“It was wonderful to see kids, police offices and families working together to improve their ability to work together and as a result, take important steps to improve our community,” remarked LaSalle Executive Director Bill Wolff, who emceed the event. The theme of for this YPI session – Building a Bridge to Better Relationships – reinforced the commitment of LaSalle School’s Juvenile Reporting and Family Center’s to ensuring that both youth and police officers in the City of Albany understand and work with each other for the safety of everyone.

On hand to make remarks were Chief Brendan Cox from the Albany Police Department and Laurie Lainhart, the acting deputy director of Albany County Probation. Awards, certificates, and recognitions came from Sean Rentz, the outgoing supervisor of the Juvenile Family Court Unit as well as the supervisor of LaSalle’s JRFC, Mario Perry, and the APD Sergeant Norah Harrington.

What exactly is the Youth Police Initiative? YPI is a series of five-day sessions designed to pair Albany County youth on detention with police officers, often the ones who patrol their neighborhoods, to complete a leadership training curriculum that builds positive identity and relationship ties.

The reasons for youth and police officers to have a good relationship is emphasized. Youth spend the first three days discussing and writing presentations describing their backgrounds, their own personal stories, and their goals as they grow into young men. On the fourth day, police officers meet with the youths to share their own stories and talk about what life was like for them when were teens. Scenarios such as car stops allow the youth and officers to do some role playing and explain what behaviors are appropriate, and inappropriate. Soon, any barriers are broken down and misconceptions are replaced with an understanding of why rules are in place for the protection of everyone involved.

“The biggest think I took away from last night was that each guy had a parent or members from his family there to cheer him on,” said LaSalle’s JRFC Director Ian Spencer. “I mean, this was a very big deal to them. Even standing on a chair, I couldn’t get a photo of the entire group because there were so many people!!” Spencer went on to acknowledge that all nine youths were attending LaSalle’s JRFC because they did something that gotten them into trouble with the police, and how fantastic it was to see so many parents happy and supporting their kids after such a positive experience.

The closing program that took place last night for this most recent YPI session celebrated the fact that nine youths and several Albany police officers came together to share experiences, understand challenges, break down barriers, and understand that key to success are continued open lines of communication.

There are six more five-day YPI sessions planned through November 2017. This week’s YPI and future sessions are being made possible through funding from the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Albany County Department for Children, Youth & Families, and The LaSalle School Foundation.

LaSalle School is a leader in programs and services for youth and families in crisis offering a variety of programs designed to meet their needs including specialized residential placement, day service education, and alternative to detention services. The Counseling Center at LaSalle is an OMH and OASAS licensed outpatient behavioral health clinic located at LaSalle School, and currently implementing ACE treatment practices with youth and families. LaSalle is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and affiliated with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), and the national Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. LaSalle is a member of The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools.

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