Virginia launches program to improve relationships between teens and police

SOUTHWEST VA (WJHL)- This year has brought what seems to be an endless string of officer-involved shootings, from Dallas to Baton Rouge, and even here at home in Bristol, Tennessee.

This year in Virginia, schools are launching a program to help bring understanding between law enforcement officers and teens.

“This must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” Dallas’ police chief said after five of his officers were killed and seven others were wounded by a man who said:”he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers”

That July shooting came just days after two black men were killed by officers in other parts of the country.

Now miles away in Virginia, Attorney General Mark Herring is starting training programs. “To help officers learn about 21st-century policing, to deescalate situations, to recognize implicit bias and make sure it doesn’t interfere with their job. We’ve got pilot programs to help increase minority recruitment where the departments really do not reflect communities they serve,” Herring said.

One of those programs is “Give It get It: Trust and Respect between Teens and Law Enforcement,” aimed to foster respectful, safe interactions between teens and officers.

“We really hope to have law enforcement as well as the young people understand what each are thinking  when there is a stop to try and reduce the potential for one of these interactions to lead to a tragic outcome,” Herring said.

The program teaches teens about their rights and responsibilities during interactions with officers, and also educates officers.

“We ask our law-enforcement to do so much and need to support them and part of that support is making sure that they have all the tools and the skills they need to achieve what I believe are two common goals we all share: make sure that law enforcement can protect our community safely and at the same time make sure that everyone is treated equally and fairly,” Herring said.

Sheriff Fred Newman said Washington County, Virginia Schools are implementing the program this school year.

“There’s going to be a number of judges, attorneys, and certainly law enforcement from my agency,” Newman said.

Newman said he hopes this will help teens see officers in a better light.

“We want people in our region, not only people in our region, people in the state and nation to know that law enforcement have a tough job to do and you know we are human, it’s not an easy task certainly,” Newman said. “We reside in the communities and want to be a good, vital part of the community.”

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