By Kimberly Wong
Kimberly Wong is the program administrator/ referral co-ordinator of the Youth Services Section, Vancouver Police Department.
Originally published in Blueline’s April, 2018 issue – An excerpt from Kimberly’s article…
“…This program, the New Kids Youth Police Academy, was started in 2015 as a way to address the criminogenic risk factors faced by this vulnerable population and to deter individuals from becoming involved and/or recruited into gang activity.
Youth are referred to the program through settlement and youth workers in the Engaged Immigrant Youth Program at the school board and each cohort consists of 15-20 newcomer participants in grades 10 through 12.
During the course of the 10-week program, participants learn about various sections within the VPD including: Mounted, Tactical Training Centre, Emergency Response Team, 911 Services, Gangs, Marine, Traffic Enforcement, Recruiting and more.
Students then engage with different members across the broad spectrum of policing by participating in fun, social activities. By doing so, police mentors are able to forge meaningful connections and relationships with newcomer youth in order to provide on-going support during their transition into Canadian culture and society.
Designed and implemented as a way in which immigrant youth can forge a new sense of identity and belonging in Canada, the New Kids Youth Police Academy also focuses on education and awareness through ongoing mentorship, self-empowerment and community leadership development. The Academy entered its fifth cohort in Fall 2017 and many past participants have expressed a change in perspective when examining policing in Canada versus other countries around the world. Many of the youth told officers their knowledge of policing in their home countries was non-existent. Others said they had experienced limited police interaction, or had a negative experience, with corruption and violence the expected outcome of any such interaction. The newcomer participants relayed they now understand policing in Vancouver to be “an honest and compassionate profession”, whereby citizens are treated with respect, dignity and integrity, and their rights upheld and protected.
In addition to learning about the VPD, the alumni participants are provided with the opportunity to positively engage with their community and share their newfound knowledge. Past alumni have worked with program staff to develop a video project and community workshop to educate newcomer communities regarding the purpose and function of policing in Vancouver. Alumni were able to work on personal development and leadership skills, while developing their public speaking and presentation abilities. Future alumni from the New Kids Youth Police Academy will continue to engage with police mentors and participate in personal skills development workshops conducted in collaboration between the VPD and the school board.
As the residents of Vancouver grow and evolve, so, too will the work of DIRS, and with new initiatives like the New Kids Youth Police Academy and “Policing 101” workshops, this section continues to introduce policing strategies for an increasingly diverse and multicultural population.”
This specialized crime prevention program with new immigrant youth, is funded by the Civil Forfeiture Office and the Vancouver Police Foundation.