GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Some young minds in Grand Rapids are getting to learn first-hand what it’s like to be a police officer. The ‘Pathways to Policing’ program is helping both the youth and officers better understand each other.
On Monday night a group of young adults celebrated the completion of the 12-week program by dining with the Grand Rapids Police Chief and other officers from the department.
“This is a huge program for us and for the kids. It’s really about building relationships and building trust," says Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky. “We’ve exposed them to the fact that we’re people. And we’ve got to know them on a level that otherwise they wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do.”
The group of kids from the community met for two hours on Mondays for the program. It exposed them to what it’s like to be a member of law enforcement, make split-second decisions, and even got them involved in various simulations.
“Police training is hard, there’s a lot of things you have to do," says 13-year-old James McClenton, who just graduated from the program. “It’s very hard being them, how it feels to be in their shoes how it feels to be in their life. I feel like I respect them more, since they got pressure on them every day.”
One of the youths says the program has inspired her to become a police officer.
“I actually got accepted into the Grand Rapids Youth Police Academy this summer. That’s really fun and I’m really looking forward to it,” says Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old who graduated from the program.
“We live in a great place here in Grand Rapids, we feel this is a unique opportunity to get our police officers together with our kids,” says Rick Huisman, the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids.
Chief Rahinsky says he hopes to expand the pathways to policing program into public schools.
The program is scheduled to run for 3 years with 12-week courses in the spring and fall.
The next one gets going in September, you can sign up here.