AG Coakley Addresses Participants at Celebration Dinner for Youth-Police Initiative
Dinner to mark end of pilot program designed to help break down barriers, increase trust between at-risk youth and local police in Cambridge
BOSTON – On Monday, Attorney General Martha Coakley addressed participants at a celebratory dinner to mark the conclusion of a three-week pilot program in Cambridge aimed at building trust in law enforcement, while reducing delinquency and violence among at-risk teens. The program, the Youth & Police Initiative (YPI), was sponsored through a partnership between the AG’s Office, the Cambridge Police Department, and the North American Family Institute (NAFI). The Cambridge pilot program was part of the Attorney General’s Project Yes Partnerships and focused on teen girls in North Cambridge.
“We were pleased that our office was able to partner with the Cambridge Police Department and the North American Family Institute for this program to enhance public safety and improve community relations in Cambridge,” said AG Coakley. “We applaud the work and commitment of the girls and police officers who, through this program, were able to interact on a deeper level and create personal bonds of understanding and respect. We thank the Cambridge Police Department and District Attorney Leone for their continuing work to keep people safe in Cambridge.”
At the dinner, the participating teens were presented with certificates of completion. AG Coakley was joined by members of the Cambridge Police Department (CPD), representatives from NAFI, and the participating girls and their families.
“This initiative served to cultivate positive relationships between our officers and the community built on trust and mutual understanding,” said Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas. “I truly believe that this will aid us in our effort to continually improve upon public safety by more effectively communicating with our residents, especially Cambridge youths.”
“I commend the work and dedication of these nine remarkable youth and the Cambridge Police Officers who have taken the initiative to actively engage in this program,” District Attorney Leone said. “It is programs such as the Youth and Police Initiative that help promote strong partnerships with police departments, the community and youth. These types of programs often prove to be a defining moment in a youth’s life, assisting them in creating a better future. I am thankful to Attorney General Coakley for her leadership in the area of youth prevention and intervention.”
“The YPI program was an extremely successful effort due to the outstanding collaboration between the AG's office, NAFI, the CPD and city of Cambridge,” said Paul Lewis, Youth Link’s master Trainer and National Director of Training. “The participating girls and officers were positively impacted by the program, which means the City of Cambridge will be as well.”
The pilot program consisted of an initial ten hours of preparatory training for selected Cambridge area teen girls, which incorporated group and community-building work. The training with the youth participants and Cambridge police officers included facilitated discussions, highly structured team building exercises, problem-solving activities, and reality-based scenario training geared towards breaking down barriers, stereotypes and biases.
“When we get involved in these kinds of efforts, the value of these associations becomes apparent,” said CPD Superintendent Christopher Burke. “I know that our officers learned just as much, if not more, from the participants as the girls learned from them, and I hope that these positive relationships will continue.”
“We were thrilled to work with the Attorney General’s Office, NAFI, and the Human Services Department on this collaboration and are extremely proud to have been selected to have this program in our community,” said CPD Chief Administrative Officer Christina Giacobbe. “Congratulations to all of the girls on their successful completion of the program, and thank you to all of our officers who participated.”
“It was really an honor to be the police liaison for this initiative,” said Cambridge Police Officer Nicole Pacheco. “I am truly thankful for the opportunity that my fellow officers and I had to meet these young ladies and help them to learn and feel comfortable with us as we developed a greater understanding of who they are and how they perceive police.
“This YPI allowed us to get to know some police officers and to let them hear the real stories from us instead of just the versions they are hearing on the street,” said one of the girls that participated in the program
The goal of the Youth & Police Initiative (YPI) is to positively impact relationships and interactions between local patrol officers and adolescents in higher risk communities, while also strengthening community relations. The YPI training program is a division of NAFI’s Youth Link.
The Project Yes Partnerships are part of Attorney General Coakley’s continuing efforts to promote community safety through targeted prevention-based programming.