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Spotlight: Bridgeport

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School personnel learn
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Ansonia sentences
kids to … gym time?

Bridgeport cops, kids stop
giving each other a bad rap

Old Lyme cop club
helps kids shine

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CT just start—unequal treatment of youth

school police collaboration

school police training

using youth behavior data

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Cops, kids stop giving each other a bad rap

BRIDGEPORT – J’Quan Towns strode across the stage as the audience swayed to his beat. The 16-year-old aspiring rapper dispensed musical advice on dealing with police. “Just do the right thing. Cooperate.” Hardly a typical hip hop sentiment toward law enforcement — but that’s the point, J’Quan explained after the performance. “I want to switch it up and talk about positive things,” he said.

He wrote the rap as part of a statewide initiative to build positive relations between police and youth. According to teens and police officers who participated, there’s historically been distrust between the two groups, to the detriment of both. Mini-grants were awarded to youth-led programs that paired adolescents and police officers in a variety of creative activities. Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee funded the initiative, and the grants were awarded and overseen by the Youth Development Training and Resource Center. The project’s ultimate aim is to prevent involvement in the juvenile justice system, especially among minority youth. The participants recently gathered at the performing arts organization Original Works in Bridgeport, also a grantee, to show off the fruits of their collaboration.

J’Quan got involved with Original Works because he hoped to get experience to help him in his music career. He definitely was not there to make friends with police officers, whom he distrusted. That changed when he got to know Officer Daniel Garcia. Garcia was recruited to work with youth at Original Works after responding to a burglary at the non-profit.

“It was challenging,” recalls the patrolman. “Don’t get me wrong. I thought about it.” Ultimately, he decided it was worth the effort. “There’s a gap there that has to be narrowed between us,” he said. So he agreed to help the young people create a series of performance pieces about police. For him and J’Quan, the gap disappeared one afternoon when the officer gave the young man a ride home. “He wasn’t looking at me as Officer Garcia. He was looking at me as Garcia.” Their conversation and the insights he offered J’Quan about police procedure became the basis of the rap.

Side By Side: Police and Youth program





Content Last Modified on 11/2/2016 2:36:03 PM