Youth Outreach Project

Youth Empowerment Center group with Mayor Hancock

Fear and lack of trust has played out locally in Denver between our youth and It’s police officers, the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) has seen an  increase in concerns from Denver youth and their family members about minor contacts with police that escalated unnecessarily.  A common theme among these incidents is a lack of communication between youth and officers, as well as a lack of knowledge. In most cases,  youth do not understand their rights or their responsibilities during law enforcement contacts and in most cases police officers do not understand how a lack of emotional maturity plays a big role in the way a teen will react to a confrontation with a police officer. 

The Bridging the Gap Program seeks to proactively improve relationships between Denver’s youth and its police officers. The Program does this by educating Denver’s youth on their rights and responsibilities when in contact with officers.  As well as educating officers on key aspects of adolescent development and de-escalation techniques when contacting youth.

What is the Bridging the Gap Program?

With the help of start-up funds from a Colorado Justice Assistance Grant, the OIM has developed and piloted a curriculum that is now being used in forums with youth and police officers in Denver. Building upon national best practices, the project features:

Youth and Police Engagement

Through a partnership with the Denver Police Department, the OIM conducts five-hour forums which allow for youth and police officers to share their experiences and learn together with the help of trained community facilitators.

Education on Adolescent Development and Emotional Intelligence

Using an evidence-based curriculum from Connecticut Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, police officers receive a full day of training on adolescent development and de-escalation techniques with youth as part of Effective Police Interactions with Youth, which is taught by trainers in the Denver Police Department and focuses on adolescents thinking and how that shapes the way they act when approached by the police.

A Sustainable Model Rooted in the Community

With strong community partnerships, the program has a wide reach throughout diverse communities in Denver, and employs a “train-the-trainer” approach that is intended to cultivate a team of experts in the community and in law enforcement who can sustain the program over time.

A Model That Can Be Tested and Replicated

Working with a team of evaluation advisors ensures that program outcomes will be testable in the long-term, creating a model that can be evaluated and eventually adapted by other jurisdictions that have taken on the charge of improving relationships between their youth and police.