Community Outreach Spotlight
Submitted by Commander Rich Slavin, Scottsdale, Arizona, Police Department
The Scottsdale, Arizona, Police Department (SPD) and the city’s parks-and-recreation department recently collaborated on a new program focused on engaging youth and strengthening relationships with the community. A parks-and-recreation operations supervisor and an SPD crime prevention officer developed this exciting program they call Partnering Law Enforcement and Youth (P.L.A.Y.).
After-school programs occur every day in the community at school facilities, within city parks-and-recreation venues, in privately owned after-school care centers, and at Boys and Girls Clubs. P.L.A.Y. encourages uniformed officers to attend these after-school programs and participate in scheduled activities. Visits also occur during summer programs.
No need exists for program managers to create something special for an officer’s visit. The goal is not to lecture on safety or stranger danger, but to engage and interact with the children. Officers spend 30 to 60 minutes—not a huge time commitment—in genuine, heartfelt, human engagement with youth in their community by participating in board games, arts and crafts, or recreational activities. Visiting officers remain cognizant of their own behavior as they spend time with the children—sitting at the same level, talking, and sharing creative ideas in a casual, free-flowing manner.
Law enforcement officers have found success with arts and crafts because they include the children in the creation of a joint project that everybody signs upon completion. These creations are displayed proudly in SPD’s district station, where everyone can see them. Many of the children, along with their teachers and parents, have visited the station during school tours, and their faces have brightened upon seeing their projects displayed.
This program creates an opportunity for community members to see officers in a different light. They are no longer “just the police” who only arrive in times of trouble or to arrest a family member. Equally important are the benefits the P.L.A.Y. program has on law enforcement officers and their department’s culture. The officers see members of the community as individuals, instead of “reporting parties,” “victims,” or “suspects.” The foundational blocks for long-lasting bonds and mutual respect are laid, and friendships are formed.
SPD fully embraces community involvement, outreach, and relationships and has included a requirement for completion of community-outreach experiences by officers in training. Participation in P.L.A.Y. offers a convenient way for field training officers and trainees to complete this task. The P.L.A.Y. program brings law enforcement officers closer to the people they serve and strengthens their community.
For additional information Commander Slavin may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Outreach Spotlight is a new department highlighting innovative ways in which law enforcement agencies engage with their communities to build or strengthen local partnerships. If you have an event or story to share, please submit photos and a short write-up to email@example.com for review and possible publication.