NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Police departments are always searching for ways to connect with teenagers, and officers in Newport News hope a new program will do just that.
The program is called the Young Adult Police Commission. It was brought to the city by Chief Steve Drew. Drew used the program in Richmond, where he worked before becoming chief.
“I think it is very important for the youth and police to come together,” Menchville High senior Sam Cornett said.
Once a week, for eight months, 20 students from the high schools in Newport News meet with police. The teenagers learn life lessons. They range from the dangers of driving drunk to learning how to interview for jobs.
“In order to make a change, we can’t continue to bump heads,” Heritage High sophomore Elijah Brown added. “We have to come together.”
They work to build a bridge between young people and officers.
“We clearly have different ways of viewing the world and if we are going to make any sort of a positive impact in their lives, we need to listen to them a little bit more,” said Newport News Sergeant Melissa Morgan.
The YAPC is a partnership between the badge and the youth. It gives the police department a chance to hear what issues teenagers have, and teenagers get to see a different side of police.
“Kids my age in my school have a negative outlook of police officers,” Brown added.
So officers are hoping this program will change that.
“I’m sincerely hoping so,” Morgan said. “I’ve gone to some events and stopped by the schools since we started this, they’ll smile at me and they will wave to me,” Moran said.
“I actually want to be a police officer, which is one of the reasons I was motivated to join this group,” Cornett added.
Cornett says bridges that are being built will lead to a safer community.
“The whole goal of this group is other than just forming connections between police and community is reducing crime and making it a safer environment,” he said.
“I live in a neighborhood where at night it is extremely common to hear gunshots,” Brown added.
Brown also sees a future wearing a uniform.
“To have a safe neighborhood is extremely important,” Brown said. “To know that you can trust the police officers is even more important. To be able help make that change is a beautiful thing to be a part of.”
Police say any high school students who want to be a part of the program next year should contact their school resource officers.