Community Policing
  • Most people meet a cop on a negative basis....but, Boston Cops and Teens are finding Common Ground.  Despite having a history of racial tension, Boston has avoided crises like we’ve seen in other places. When the Center for Teen Empowerment moved into the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston about 7 years ago, gang and gun violence was widespread. Dorchester still struggles with crime, but today, youth there are now part of the solution. 

    Dante Omorogbe said he’s been stopped by police hundreds of times but has never been arrested. There was a time when things might have gone very differently for Dante.

  He had dropped out of school, was homeless, and was considering selling drugs.  When asked what stopped him, he said, “There’s no love on these streets. You know there are only 3 ways. It’s either die, go to jail, or change,” Dante said.  It has been a tough life for Dante, but he is now back at school working to graduate this spring.  



    Dante is a youth leader for the nonprofit Teen Empowerment that brings together teens and police in Boston to talk.  They engage in some pretty non-traditional ways, and it’s disarming for both sides.

    This program gathered gang members, sworn enemies and brokered a peace deal. In the mid-‘90s for 29 months, not a single person under the age of 21 was killed on the streets. 
 
“One of the things that took place was that there was belief in young people and there was an investment in young people as leaders… and young people were paid to be agents of change by working  to make their community peaceful,” said Stanley Pollack (founder of he program). 
 
From 2015 to 2016, in the parts of the city where the program operates, homicides have remained flat; but, throughout Boston, homicides went up 36%.

    Pollack sees these teens as the agents of change.  “It begins not because they have a problem, but because they have something to offer,” Pollack said. 

They’re paid to organize events and recruit new members, including police officers. 
    He and Officer Crossen are not naïve. The faces of dead, un-armed black males killed by police, and men in blue killed on the job, run through their minds every day. “I want to go home to my family just as much as anybody else wants to go home to theirs,” Officer Crossen said.
 
Still, what’s happening here is what they believe has freed Boston from the fate of so many other cities.


    “Like how me and Zach are, how I can sit down and have a conversation with an officer you know…if there happens to be a time where I have to be stopped, you know there’s not going to be that hostility, because you know, okay, that’s Dante, we’re on common ground,” Dante said.  (Source:  “How teens and Boston cops are finding common ground,” A More Perfect Union, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller, CBS This Morning, January 4, 2017)

  • Coffee with a Cop is a program aimed at improving community relations.  Since 2011 in Charleston, South Carolina, cops have coffee with citizens.  The conversation is simple - sitting down over coffee with no agenda, just talking to people.  There is a divisiveness in society between police and the community.  This program changes the mindset of “us versus them.”  There are days when officers will handle 20-30 911 calls in one shift, which doesn’t leave a lot of down time to connect and talk to people at your normal mini-mart.  Cops can go an entire day without having a calm conversation with anyone, even an entire week.  Few people ever talk to cops.  “A lot of people are afraid; they don’t trust police; and talking to them makes them a little more human.  They are people just like you and I.”  Officers are asked to take coffee breaks to take the time to talk to the people.  The people come to see the cops as neighbors and stake holders in the same community.  The Coffee with a Cop program is funded by the Division of the Dept. of Justice, and is now part of 650 law enforcement agencies in 47 states.  Charleston police have adopted the program as a regular part of their community outreach, to establish a relationship and bond so the community becomes stronger and they will have the trust in their police to tell them what is going on.

    CBS news reporter Gayle King then remarked, “FBI Director James Comey said in a recent interview that it is hard to hate somebody close up.  This is a perfect example of that.”   (Coffee with a Cop, CBS This Morning, February 16, 2015)