In light of current happenings in Ferguson, Missouri, the Teen And Police Service (TAPS) Academy would like to increase awareness about its programs, which focus on reducing the social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement across the country. TAPS Academy began as a partnership between the Department of Justice, COPS Office, the Houston Police Department and the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Since 2012, TAPS has served thousands of youth, police officers and their communities as bridges are built through dialogue, interaction and communication.
As a Criminologist, I hear the constant outcry from youth, specifically minority young men and other members of their communities, demanding fair and impartial policing, and procedural justice as forwarding legitimacy in policing. Conversely, I also hear the mandate from police chiefs and their officers as they risk their lives every day to provide service and public safety to their communities. Clear paths of discussion and venues for voices to be heard is what is needed. Establishing positive relationships with teenagers and police officers is needed now more than ever. It is an integral part of helping to ease tensions in cities across the country, including Ferguson. On August 9th, when Michael Brown was killed issues of race, fair policing, youth culture and police practices became a national focus.
We’ve seen what can happen when there is mistrust between youth and law enforcement. Unfortunately, there are counties, towns, cities and territories with the same characteristics as Ferguson all over the United States and across the globe. TAPS Academy creates an environment where law enforcement and at-risk youth learn from each other, build relationships and discuss better ways to manage adverse situations. This program forges a path for these two groups to build a solid foundation of trust and mutual respect.