West Palm Beach officers meet with kids to build better relationships

Posted at 8:05 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 05:24:57-04

Recent events have strained an already fragile relationship between cops and some communities.

Tuesday, the West Palm Beach police worked to build bridges and break down barriers at a meeting in a north-end neighborhood.

“What do you want to be when you grow up,” asked the officer to the young boy next to him. “I wanted to be there first black president, but Barack took my job," the young boy responded. 

These are the moments that make young minds.They are cute yet candid conversations that at times come with uncomfortable questions.

"[They] killed a CD man cuz they say he had a gun on him,” said another kid at the table, referring to Alton Sterling, the black man shot and killed by Baton Rouge police officers earlier this month.

An incident that was followed by another officer-involved shooting in Minnesota, then, deadly acts of violence against police in Dallas and Louisiana.

And while it’s not easy, talking about those incidents is part of the reason these officers are sharing their morning with these boys today.

"You shouldn't be afraid of us and we shouldn't be afraid of you," said another officer during the conversation.

Many of these young African American boys live on West Palm Beach's north-end, in some of the city's most crime-ridden areas.

Police officers came to this Salvation Army camp Tuesday to make sure that these kids have a chance to get to know the real purpose of the police, and separate it from what they might hear in their neighborhoods or see on TV.

"We heard a lot of kids say they're afraid. The message is don't be afraid. We're here to help you. We’re here to make sure that you're okay,” said Sgt. Regina Bell of the West Palm Beach Police Department.

It was raw and real talk that seemed to build a bond. It was a small step toward building a bigger bridge between the cops and the community they serve.

“He’s cool. Kinda connected,” Cratis Grable, a 13 year old boy at the program. “They came out to talk to us and made me feel like they really care about us being protected and they want us to be safe."

The program falls under the umbrella of the mayor's Village Initiative. The goal of that is to help change the outcomes of the young men living on the city's north-end.

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