STYLE program bridges gap between youth and cops -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

STYLE program bridges gap between youth and cops

STYLE program comes to Pelham, teaching kids about how to interact with law enforcement. (Source: WALB) STYLE program comes to Pelham, teaching kids about how to interact with law enforcement. (Source: WALB)
Tyler Autry (Source: WALB) Tyler Autry (Source: WALB)
Gabby Hetts Gabby Hetts
Robert Mathews (Source: WALB) Robert Mathews (Source: WALB)
Nealie McCormick (Source: WALB) Nealie McCormick (Source: WALB)

Representatives from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office visited Pelham Thursday, but they weren't looking for criminals. 

They were they to meet with kids in the community, to hear about concerns they have about police officers.

It's all part of a new two-day program that hopes to bridge the gaps between youth and law enforcement.

The program is called STYLE, which stands for Successful Tips for Youth on Law Enforcement Encounters.

Students were given scenarios that officers experience every day, in order to get a better understanding of an officer's duties. 

"My perspective on a police officer has completely just flipped upside down," said Pelham City Middle School 8th Grader Gabby Hetts.

Gabby said many of her friends and classmates were either afraid of or thought negatively about law enforcement officers. 

"A lot of kids my age that are African American that feel like the police hate them could really use this program as being helpful," she said. 

The day started off with a survey to gauge how kids felt about cops.

A lot of the kids circled 'Yes' when asked if they believed "Cops just wanted to shoot black men."

"Most of these kids have never had a real encounter with the police," said school counselor Tyler Autry. "It's what they see on T.V., or their family members or friends have told them."

One by one, students took turns seeing how they would handle the situation.  

Afterward, students would ask questions and learn how split second decisions could change everything.

FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Robert Mathews said the STYLE program is about getting kids to see a bigger picture. 

"A lot of times when there are video clips on the news, there's a very small portion of the full scenario that happened," said Robert Mathews.  "And we're trying to get them to open their eyes to, 'Hey there may be some other things going on that you may not know about.'"

Pelham Police Chief Nealie McCormick said he is encouraged by the students' response.

He encourages other cities to take advantage of STYLE. 

"If the respect for police breaks down, and police become ineffective, then you lose civilization.  And we can't let that happen," Chief McCormick said. 

Pelham is only the third city in the country where students interact with officers and representatives from the FBI and US Attorney's office.

If you're interested in the STYLE program coming to your area, contact your local law enforcement agency.

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