“Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids” is an initiative of All Stars Project, and brings together inner-city youth and police. The typical workshops are two hours long, and begin with light-hearted theater games to break the ice. After that the officers and young people take turns saying “what they came here to say,” in other words, both sides air their grievances, so that they can move on and have constructive conversation. The blog Re-Thinking Juvenile Gangs cited that “at one police-community meeting facilitated by the Justice Center last year a shy 10-year old young lady from Taft Houses commented: ‘when I see the police I am afraid.’” After expressing their initial opinions, the young people and officers do improvisational skits together, in which they run through everyday encounters and conflicts, and work together to find solutions. Finally, each session ends with more open conversation to bring together the ideas and practices discussed earlier. After attending an Operation Conversation workshop, Re-Thinking Juvenile Gangs wrote that:
There is a need for efforts like this. Not just because it feels good to do it, but also democracy requires an educated citizenry and a transparent government. Cops have a responsibility to educate the communities they serve about the work they do. Young people also have a duty to their community that includes getting educated and helping their peers to do the right thing.
Operation Conversation was started in 2006, and in 2011 it was instituted as part of the NYPD training protocol for all incoming officers. Over 1,300 youth and officers have been the program since its founding, and it is a model program for communities that want to improve relations with law enforcement.
Read Re-Thinking Juvenile Gangs’ entire review of the program here.
Find more information on the program and how to get involved here.