The South Pasadena Police Department wants to bridge any and all gaps, it says.
In fact, police officials are nearing the end of the second week of what they call a Teen Academy that is designed to do just that: bridge the gap between law enforcement and teen-agers.
“My goal with the program was to bridge the gap and educate our youth about law enforcement and what we do every day,” said Brian Solinsky, acting So Pas police chief. “While the program here in South Pasadena is still in its infancy, we have regular contact with kids that went through the first course. I think the kids made some lasting connections and saw the police were regular people who really cared and had their best interests in mind.”
The six-week course began two weeks ago and will meet every Tuesday evening for about two hours, according to the So Pas Police Corporal Avick Manukian, the academy coordinator. The course will include classes on patrol, traffic, K9, investigations, laws, safety, among other courses.
“It’s a tough time to be a teen-ager,” Manukian said, “with all the peer pressure involving things like social media where you’re judged by how many likes you get. We’re here to help.” Manukian, a father himself, said many of the teen-agers come to the Teen Academy with misconceptions about law enforcement but when they leave, there is a mutual understanding.
“It’s part of our community policing efforts,” Manukian said. “We want them to see what’s behind the badge. We are just people, too.”
Moreover, this is not a one-way street. The first academy, held in September of 2015, gave SP police a better understanding of what teen-agers face in South Pasadena.
“The officers in South Pasadena are invested in the community and want to see the kids succeed, just as we would want to see our own,” Solinsky said.
The current class has 32 enrolled students. The first Tuesday evening brought parents, students and police together for an orientation.
“I had a chance to talk with some of the students and their parents,” Solinsky said. “I’m really excited to see how engaged the kids are. Some of the parents seemed more excited than the kids, which is why we also have a Citizen’s Academy later in the year.”
In the final analysis, it’s about bringing the community together, Solinsky and Manukian said. When the community is engaged in public safety, whether it be neighborhood watch, reporting suspicious activity, or any other form of involvement, the city is the safer for it.
“We can’t do our job without community support,” Solinsky said. “I think this is going to be a great class and create new partnerships with a better understanding of law enforcement’s role in the community. This is an opportunity to show how citizens can partner with us and make a difference.” The class runs until Oct. 2.
For more information about Teen Academy or the adult version, Citizen’s Academy, contact the SPPD at (626) 403-7270.