How do altercations start between teenagers and police? What motivates people in each group to act as they do?
These are some of the questions being explored and shared between police departments from and , and close to a dozen local teens as part of a Youth Police Initiative. They have been meeting as a group on weekday afternoons at while building understanding of each other.
The initiative is a local one that is being overseen by the North American Family Institute. Dr. Jim Isenberg, who is an executive director for the group, said that it has been used in other Westchester County communities, including Port Chester, Mount Vernon, White Plains and Yonkers. In those cases, the programs had involvement from either the schools or youth bureaus. In this case, Fox Lane guidance counselors suggested the teens, Isenberg said.
“It makes for a stronger community, safer community, and I think we all benefit from that," said Bedford Police Chief William Hayes. He explained that he was introduced to Isenberg through a Mount Kisco police lieutenant who was a mutual contact.
The decision for both police departments to collaborate is based on the communities having things in common, including a shared school district, Hayes explained.
Mount Kisco Police Chief Steven Anderson described the program as "perfectly in line" with their goals of preemption, community relations and education.
Asked about situations that can escalate between police and others, Anderson said, “It happens often and it’s not just with kids.” He attributed such cases to things such as exigent circumstances. He also feels that the more programs like the intiative are done, the less of those encounters you'll have.
During the course of the meetings, which included a Thursday appearance by chiefs Anderson and Hayes, perspectives are shared and scenarios are acted out, and teens are told about what is appropriate behavior when approached by law enforcement.
“It’s just, it’s positive," said Gerald Ford, who conducts trainings with the family institute. He noted that kids start out with a shy or negative view of police, which changes with the training.
Donovan Beauford, a 16-year-old Bedford resident who attends the Bedford school district's Hillside program, discussed his view. He gave concern about his perception, of police going up to someone who may not be causing any problems.
Alexander Parker, 15, just moved to Bedford from Mount Vernon and is trying to enroll at Fox Lane. He attended the same event there and would like to see this one go on longer.
Aside from discussing how to stop negative confrontations, teens also shared choices they have made in the past, both good and bad, as well as their goals. Some of the aspirations shared included joining the military, playing professional sports or going into law enforcement.
The teens are having more meetings this week at Fox Lane, this time with rank and file police officers, including those they might see on patrol.