By Dr. Everette B. Penn, Ph.D.
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
Building trust and respect between police and the community reduces crime.
As cities such as Jackson, Mississippi find ways to respond to the rise in violent crime, there is a need to move research to practice.
One such practice is the Teen And Police Service Academy, otherwise known as TAPS Academy.
Founded in 2011 as a joint project with the Houston Police Department, Houston Independent School District, University of Houston – Clear Lake, and Texas Southern University, TAPS Academy has served thousands of youth and police nationally and internationally by meeting three objectives: 1) reduce the social distance between youth and police; 2) teach skills to prevent crime; and 3) build community through service-learning.
TAPS Academy builds upon the positives of programs such as DARE, GREAT, PALS and Citizen Police Academies to create a new level beyond Community Policing.
TAPS Academy places youth and police on equal footing to take Community Policing to the most disenfranchised through 21st Century Policing methods of building legitimacy and procedural justice for lasting crime prevention practices.
TAPS Academy moves police officers and youth through a curriculum that is certified by the Texas Education Agency to provide one high school credit to students upon completion. The curriculum provides modules in “Role of the Police”, “Conflict Mediation”, ‘Team Building”, “Drug and Alcohol Prevention”, “Victimization”, “Human Trafficking”, “Safe Driving” and so many others using active learning.
Each TAPS Academy requires officers and youth to complete a service-learning project of three hours in which they identify a need in the community, do the project, and then reflect about what they have learned and done to better their community.
TAPS Academy moves respect, trust and other social indicators that reduce crime 20% to 50% as police, youth and community partners work together.
TAPS Academy not only works with police departments, high schools and government agencies but also non-profits, colleges and universities. In large cities like Houston and smaller communities like Grambling, we see TAPS Academy make tremendous strides to remove stereotypes, so that youth can learn from police, and police can learn from youth.
Jackson, Mississippi with its network of organizations, especially its universities and colleges, provides the foundation for effective TAPS Academy programming.
TAPS Academy is funded by the Department of Justice to promote mentoring and school safety. For more information about TAPS Academy visit: www.tapsacademy.org.
Publisher’s Note: Dr. Everette B. Penn is a Professor of Criminology at the University of Houston – Clear Lake, Co-Founder and Executive Director of TAPS Academy, and a member of the Black Criminologists Forum (BCF). BCF is a national association of nearly 70 Black scholars holding a doctorate degree in criminology, criminal justice, juvenile justice, or a related field of study.