Police Hope To Build Trust With Youth


Rockford Police officers don’t always fight battles on the street. Sometimes, the struggle is earning the trust of the community they serve. Their target is building relations with the city’s young residents through the Youth Police Academy.

“You get to know them as a person,” said Academy participant Ian Torrisi. “Instead of knowing them as just a police officer.”

That is exactly what the Rockford Youth Police Academy sets out to do. The Department wants to build trust with the community.

Attending teens participated in a variety of trust exercises. The hope is they can take that out into the real world and in their neighborhoods. Organizers say they want to instill a certain connection with the younger generations.

“We want to stay engaged with the youth and our community,” said Rockford Police officer Courtney Tillmon-Listhrop. “[To] have a positive influence on them and actually give them an opportunity to get to know us, as well as we get to know them.”

Police want the teens to get to know them as friends or allies, not just the enemy.

“A lot of these kids, anytime they see a police officer, a lot of the time it’s for the negative reasons,” said Rockford Police officer Rob Washo. “This gives them the opportunity to see us in completely different level.”

The officers say the relationships they create with the teens attending the Academy stretches past the summer.

“We end up gaining connections with them and we’re all school liasion officers,” said Tillmon-Listhrop. “We end up seeing them throughout the school year. And its great to have those connections and those relationships with them throughout the year.”

The Youth Police Academy is completely free. This week is the last session for the summer but if teens missed out this year, they can attend next year.

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