A Policing Approach That Improves Health and Wellness of Youth

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A Policing Approach That Improves Health and Wellness of Youth

A Policing Approach That Improves Health and Wellness of Youth

This podcast is part of a series highlighting innovative approaches to reducing violence and improving health outcomes among at-risk minority youth at the nine demonstration sites of the Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. One of these demonstrations sites is Policing Approach Through Health, Wellness and Youth (PATHWAY) in West Palm Beach, Fla., an initiative led by the City of West Palm Beach that seeks to promote healthy adolescent development, discourage harmful and violent behavior, and provide youth with opportunities for positive social involvement.

Reed Daniel, campus manager for the Youth Empowerment Division of the City of West Palm Beach Department of Recreation & Strategic Innovations and Special Agent James Lewis and Assistant Chief Sarah Mooney of the West Palm Beach Police Department joined this week's podcast to discuss the role of law enforcement in PATHWAY, which includes offering critical mentorship and role modeling for program participants and creating meaningful diversion opportunities for low-level youth offenders.


 

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The following is a transcript

RAPHAEL POPE-SUSSMAN: Hi. This is Raphael Pope-­Sussman of the Center for Court Innovation. This podcast is part of a series we are doing with people seeking to curb violence and improve access to public health for at-risk minority youth, as part of the Minority Youth Violence Prevention initiative. The initiative is a partnership of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the U.S. Department of Justice that encourages collaboration among public health organizations, law enforcement agencies, and community-based groups.

Our podcast series highlights innovative approaches at the nine demonstration sites that have received funding under the program. Policing Approach Through Health, Wellness, and Youth, or PATHWAY, is an initiative led by the city of West Palm Beach that seeks to promote healthy adolescent development, discourage harmful and violent behavior, and provide youth with opportunities for positive social involvement. Through the program, police officers serve as mentors and instructors, and work alongside participants in community service projects.

In October, I spoke with R. Reed Daniel, Campus Manager for the Youth Empowerment Division of the City of West Palm Beach, Department of Recreation and Strategic Innovations, Special Agent James Lewis of the West Palm Beach Police Department, and Assistant Chief Sarah Mooney, of the West Palm Beach Police Department. Our conversation focused on the role of law enforcement in PATHWAY, which includes critical mentorship and role modeling for program participants, and offering meaningful diversion to low level youth offenders.

Hi, I'm Raphael Pope-­Sussman with the Center for Court Innovation. Today we're speaking with R. Reed Daniel, Campus Manager, Youth Empowerment Division for the City of West Palm Beach, Department of Recreation and Strategic Innovations, Agent Lewis of the West Palm Beach Police Department and Assistant Chief Sarah Mooney of the West Palm Beach Police Department. Reed, Agent Lewis, and Assistant Chief Mooney, thank you for speaking with me today and welcome.

ALL: Thank you.

POPE-SUSSMAN: First of all, can you describe the PATHWAY program?

REED DANIEL: My name is Reed Daniel. I'm the manager of the Youth Empowerment Center here in West Palm Beach. The PATHWAY Program came about about a year ago from a grant that we were seeking from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health and the Department of Justice COPS office, through which we implemented the city's Policing Approach Through Health, Wellness, and Youth--PATHWAY.

PATHWAY expanded the city's current crime prevention based programs and activities which include diversion and restorative justice efforts to integrate health and wellness education and services.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Can you talk about what that looks like specifically?

DANIEL: We've formed a number of relationships with what we call key partners. On the health side we have the Board of Department of Health, Palm Beach County, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County, and on the crime prevention side, our key partner is the City of West Palm Beach Police Department. We integrate all those resources together in an effort to combat crime, and specifically juvenile crime, which really targets and focuses on juvenile crime involving black males.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What kind of activities are involved?

DANIEL: The program sends a lot of activities. All these programs are umbrellaed at the Youth Empowerment Center. We have programs in restorative justice, we have programs in crime prevention, we have programs in health and wellness, we have nutrition programs. All of these programs are joined together at the Youth Empowerment Center and offered to our teenagers, our youth who attend here, free of charge.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What is the role of law enforcement in these programs?

DANIEL: The police department actually is the component that drives the crime prevention initiative. West Palm Beach Police works closely with the Youth Empowerment Center and other key partners to find solutions that will divert our youth away from the criminal justice system.

POPE-SUSSMAN: The police in the program work with the youth in what context?

AGENT LEWIS: Basically it would be the law enforcement part of it. We do have an officer that works at the Youth Empowerment Center during the hours of the day and then also basically provides mentoring, give the kids an opportunity to have someone that they can talk to, with a law enforcement background. Some of the other programs we also offer as Reed mentioned earlier is the NAB--Neighborhood Accountability Board.

The county itself has been experiencing an increase in juvenile that are entering the criminal justice system for misdemeanor crimes. In efforts to reduce the number of juveniles going into the systems for crimes that are not felonies, we created the Neighborhood Accountability Board and that gives our first time juvenile the opportunity to be diverted from the juvenile justice system at the program where they can basically take responsibility for their actions or the crime that they committed, but also it provides the community an opportunity to address the issue together. It instills some community feelings to these kids so they understand the impact of crimes that they’ve committed.

We also have a great program that's for gang prevention that's offered here at the Youth Empowerment Center and that gives kids-- middle school and elementary kids--the opportunity to learn and gang prevention before they get to into high school where they are kind of susceptible to be brought into gangs. We also have our Operation Youth Violence, which addresses issue with offenders between the ages of 14 to 24 who committed a felony crimes within a certain area in our city. That program, when kids commit a crime, we have a task force including members of our Youth Empowerment Center, the Urban League of Palm Beach County, and some other partners that we have.

We give these kids an opportunity to basically take ownership of what they did. It’s a voluntary program but when it’s time to go to court, as long as they’ve successfully completed one of these programs offered here at the Youth Empowerment Center, we’ll go in on their behalf and let the judge know that while they were awaiting trial they did some positive stuff, whether it’s obtaining a GED, coming here for tutoring, or participating in one of the other programs we

POPE-SUSSMAN: Assistant Chief Mooney, do you have anything to add to that?

ASSISTANT CHIEF MOONEY: I would say, we've gone into the second year of this grant. We have an opportunity to kind of expand what we did last year. Last year the officers definitely had more presence at the Youth Empowerment Center, but this year we're going to have the opportunity to have some of the officers that come in typically present some of their own types of programs that they want to initiate.

We're trying to encourage the start up of a couple of different initiatives that haven't been laid out yet, that if we give the officer some time and have some autonomy to develop things that they are already good at, whether it's a sports program, it might be some sort of hobby that they have that they could teach to the kids who come out to the center.

Something that's totally different, outside of the typical police interaction with the youth. They let the kids see that the officers aren't just officers. They are just like everybody else. This year, that's going to be our goal. To expand what we did last year instead of just having a presence and just interacting, that we actually develop new programs that will be specific to officer-initiated type of events.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Do you have a sense of any specific programs that you have in mind?

ASSISTANT CHIEF MOONEY: We were talking about even having like maybe a basketball three-on-three competition where you have some officers come in, play against the kids or play with the kids. They have a tennis court and we have a couple of officers that are tennis players. We're going to try and initiate something with that this year. We also are involved in doing kids-and-cops meetings where basically some can sit down, sort of a chat session where you have a couple of officers come in and the kids have the opportunity to ask any questions they want and have a one-on one or a group setting so that they have access to the officers and get a feel for where we're coming from and we get a feel for where they're coming from too.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What has been their response?

ASSISTANT CHIEF MOONEY: I'll leave that to you.

DANIEL: It's been phenomenal. We have officers who actually come here and I want to say they become like a surrogate parent in a way. They really attach and bond to some of these kids. Many of our kids who come to our center come from low-income, at-risk homes. Single parent homes, where the mom is working most likely, in most cases, the dad’s away.

These kids come here and we provide to them that community culture of safety, first of all, but we also, through these officers, are able to provide mentoring and really those relationships that start to grow beyond the Youth Empowerment Center and into the community. We're excited about that. I've seen that happen and it's a tremendous way of impacting a child's life when you see these officers and these kids engage in different activities and conversations. I think that's one of the greatest opportunities we provide here at the Youth Empowerment Program.

AGENT LEWIS: When Reed first approached us with the grant, he mentioned that there was a health component and policing. Myself, Detective Mooney, and Sergeant Neely, we basically did not understand where the health part and the police came into play, but after we sat down and we realized that the health part includes mental health, we saw a true definition, a true connection between the police department and the Youth Empowerment Center.

Because a lot of our offenders, a lot of crimes that they commit are crimes that at the end of it you realize that there's a mental aspect to it, whether it's the behavioral part or it's some issues that are deep embedded in the youth that we're dealing with. Before, we brought out this kids saying, "We can get you a job. We can get you a GED," but then, we don't realize there's a lot more that they're going through. Whether it's broken homes, just needing someone to talk to. Mental health folks that we have as partners, have really been instrumental in helping these kids with some of the things that they need or that they have. So this grant has worked great for us. We're seeing reduction in crimes that are being committed by some of our youth because now they have an avenue, they someone they can talk to. If they have some anger issues, they know they can call over at the Youth Empowerment Center or the staff members and they can get to talk with some of our partners on the mental health side.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Do you have any plans to measure results, whether it's community survey …

DANIEL: Of course during the first year of the grant, the Center for Court Innovation provided what they call a process evaluation. We've just been in touch with our local criminal justice commission and they will probably do our outcome evaluation over the three years. Document registrations, document assessments, pre-assessments, post assessments, document how many kids come in the program, where they go. We're going to track these kids up to six months after they even leave our program to just see how it's going and what the results are.

POPE-SUSSMAN: On the police department side?

AGENT LEWIS: On the police department side, the kids who went through our program we also keep track of them, especially those who went through Operation Youth Violence--reduction, prevention, and intervention. Those kids that go through this program who have an active court case, we document them or observe them throughout the process. After they complete our program, we do a six months evaluation and we stay in contact with them and also the providers, the service providers, that they reached out to.

For the NAB, we've got to do a six months evaluation basically to make sure that they're still using the principles of restorative justice and then a one year assessment to see where they are in live to make sure they are still on track. Also, one thing that we do give all our participants, they have all our contact information so they can during the course of six months or a year they have any issues or any obstacles, we encourage them to give us a call so that we can help them along the way.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Great. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

ALL: You're welcome.

POPE-SUSSMAN: This is Raphael Pope-­Sussman and I've been speaking with Reed Daniel, Campus Manager for the Youth Empowerment division of the City of West Palm Beach, Department of Recreation and Strategic Innovations, Agent James Lewis of the West Palm Beach Police Department, and Assistant Chief Sarah Mooney of the West Palm Beach Police Department. For more information about the Center for Court Innovation visit www.courtinnovation.org.

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