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New Program Aims to Build Relations Between Youth and Police

A new program that seeks to improve relationships among youth and law enforcement is on its way to Virginia.

Attorney General Mark Herring announced the roll out of the “Give It, Get It: Trust and Respect between Teens and Law Enforcement” program at the 16th Annual School and Campus Safety Training Forum.

Herring says the program is meant to help both law enforcement officers and young adults know their rights and responsibilities while cultivating mutual respect and trust. One of the goals will be to help each side understand what the other sees and experiences during an interaction.

“It'll include some role playing and scenarios where students and officers will have a chance to act out or discuss different situations and different possible reactions and outcomes that different choices can produce.” Herring told the Hampton gathering Monday (8/1).

The creators hope its capacity for empathetic insight will reduce the sense of fear or tension a young person can experience when interacting with a law enforcement officer.

"One thing I heard is that many parents, especially African-American and Latino parents, worry about their child reacting to police in a moment of panic and either getting in more trouble or even creating a potentially dangerous situation,” said Herring. “If we can help our young people understand their rights and responsibilities, and help them understand what an officer is seeing and thinking during an encounter, we can take some of the fear out of these interactions and make them safer, and more likely to end positively."

"Give It, Get It" will be distributed through a broader program called "Virginia Rules." According to a press release, more than 1,500 local law enforcement officers, school resource officers, Commonwealth's Attorneys, and community leaders are certified "Virginia Rules" instructors who can facilitate localized sessions. Herring says the online component to "Give It, Get It" will be available August 19th  for program instructors to access for the new school year.

The program was crafted with materials from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). 

"As an organization committed to improving relationships between our law enforcement community and the communities we serve, we welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Office of the Attorney General on this critical program," said NOBLE's Central Virginia Chapter President, Morris Roberson, in a press release.

Speaking to the crowd of dozens of school resource officers, administrators, and security personnel, Herring was optimistic about the program’s potential to help cut through some of the rising public anxiety around police, violence and communities of color.

 “When you look at what’s going on around the country – the tension, the fear, the frustration and sometimes, outright violence – it’s easy to think that we are impossibly divided,” Herring told the crowd of law enforcement officials. “I think we all can and should stand united against violence, fear and loss of life whether it’s a young African-American man, or whether it’s one of our men and women in uniform.”