River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding project on Police Youth Dialogue

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(Reposted from: River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding)

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The need for healing between community and police is at a critical point in our country. The River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding (RPCP) and the Gainesville Police Department have taken a bold and innovative approach to facilitate this healing and trust building by bringing together black and brown youth and Law Enforcement Officers to address issues and concerns that impact their daily lives. Through direct dialogue and dynamic interactions, they are dismantling layers of prejudice, stereotypes, bias, fear and mistrust between these groups and finding common ground.

Law enforcement agencies still find themselves in a defensive position within many communities perpetuated by the media and highlighted by citizen complaints that at times stem from officer misconduct.  By strengthening community policing practices, training officers on adolescent brain development, further enhanced de-escalation skills and increased officer discretion to not arrest, law enforcement agencies can preempt high impact encounters with community members.

The Police Youth Dialogue program has continued to grow and expand.  RPCP has completed over 25 trainings and served over 200 officers and 200 youth.  The program has expanded to now include the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, the University of Florida Police Department and Santa Fe College Police Department. This training now includes all Law Enforcement Agencies in the greater Gainesville area.

RPCP is currently developing a training manual in collaboration with the Gainesville Police Department to assist other communities translate this model to other cities in the U.S.  

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