New Police Academy Unites High School Students, Law Enforcement, UCPD, Berkeley Boosters, Police and Life Academy for Youth

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The first session of a new police academy designed for Berkeley Unified School District high school students met last Monday as part of a continuing endeavor to bring young locals together with neighboring law enforcement agencies.

The Police and Life Academy For Youth is a collaborative effort between the Berkeley Boosters Association - a local non-profit organization that coordinates various activities between law enforcement officers, safety personnel and youth - as well as the Berkeley Police Department and UCPD.

The academy consists of 11 sessions covering topics including criminal justice, conflict resolution, emergency preparedness and career opportunities. Students will tour the Berkeley Police Department facility, discuss current topics in local law enforcement and learn weaponless defense.

Cheryl La Rosa Longo, executive director of Berkeley Boosters, said this first semester of the academy will serve as a pilot project.

"We started with high-school-age students who are more mature, who can participate in group discussions on current event topics or who have an interest in criminology," La Rosa Longo said.

She added that the academy is considering opening the program to middle school students in the future.

The academy is funded by a $25,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Community Partnership Fund, which awards funding to community service programs that enhance the economic, social or cultural welfare of city residents, according to the fund's website.

As part of the grant, the academy has hired two UC Berkeley students as paid interns with plans to hire two more next semester. Campus senior Hannah Loper, media and marketing coordinator for the academy, said the program provides an opportunity to work with and mentor local students.

Loper said the first meeting was successful, drawing in 16 students from the high school and a large number of law enforcement officers.

"Initially the kids were a little intimidated by the uniforms," she said. "We asked them what they thought their rights were, and it was quiet for a minute, but when we asked about their limitations as minors, they had lots to say."

Loper said she hopes the program will grant students a better understanding of their rights and how to use them.

Campus sophomore Joey Lam, project facilitator, is responsible for facilitating discussions and creating academy activities. He plans to bring in guest speakers who will incorporate current events into their presentations.

"My goal is to be someone to relate to for these kids," Lam said. "It's hard for them to relate to police officers, and the UC interns are a friendly face that can motivate them to stay engaged."

Law enforcement involvement is volunteer-based, and volunteers include active and retired officers from both the Berkeley Police Department and UCPD.

Berkeley police Sgt. Jen Louis said the police departments want to allow youth to get a closer look at police work, provide a forum for questions on youth rights and safety and teach students about their responsibilities in the community.

Louis said she was optimistic about the inaugural academy's ability to grow stronger as more youth get involved.

"The most important thing is to provide an opportunity to build positive relations and interactions between youth and officers," Louis said.


Contact Kate Lyons at [email protected]

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