41 homicides in 2021 alone!
How are we supposed to stop these worrisome
gun-violence rates that continue to climb?
MY NEW MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
Over the recent years, Fayette County has been plagued by gun violence and downtown Lexington -specifically- has seen some of the highest rates. I urge our town council (and local leaders) to get our youth centers back open, so that we can work on our community policing. By getting these troubled youngsters off the streets, everyone wins. We need a productive avenue, and to me, concepts like police-involved, athletic leagues are a wonderful start.
I propose a new concept, called "Coach 5-O" where the Fayette County Sheriff's Office can join forces with the Fayette County Public School's athletic department to create a mentorship program between student athletes and police officers. I believe that it’s significant that our officers participate in practices, workouts and games, and serve as mentors to help male and female student athletes make good decisions both on and off the field/court. The goal of the program is to help inspire success on the field and also in life. That goal is reached through the officers devoting time during their busy work schedules to mentor athletes, and of course supporting and adding to the coaches’ messages during team meetings.
Youth interactions present a unique set of challenges and opportunities for law enforcement. For many young adults, their first encounter with anything justice-related—whether in school, their neighborhoods, or social service settings—is through law enforcement.
The nature, circumstances, and design of this program can then have a significant and lasting impression on a young person. Concerned adults, mentors, and role models can assist adolescents in achieving social competence and help in reducing problem behavior.
Police officers are also in a strong position to take on this role of influencing our youth and promoting positive and productive outcomes when they interact. I’m a firm believer that a law enforcement officer who builds a good relationship with a teen can be a strong, protective figure for them. Likewise, arresting youth for minor offenses or for the purpose of “teaching them to respect authority” can have harmful, long-term consequences, and even foster broader, negative community perceptions.
Along with the Coach 5-O program, I suggest we engage youth and communities in joint police-youth training academies (such as citizen academies), ride-alongs, and problem-solving activities. This program is just a start on mitigating and lessening our violent crimes -which are taking place across our county every month. Community partners, and law enforcement agencies, should be engaging our local communities to develop a role in these programs; and furthermore, these programs should aim to help reintegrate juvenile offenders as they leave the justice system. We should be recognizing youth voices in different decision-making processes, facilitate youth-led problem solving, and fund youth leadership training, we should create programs for positive and persistent interactions between law enforcement and young/future community members, and we should develop community, school, and evidence-based programs that mitigate these dated, punitive, "traditional" solutions.
Working with coaches, local officers help reinforce the messages of perseverance, honesty, handwork, discipline, and teamwork. Deputies can help the students to identify their skills and interests, to attain goals, and to solve problems. When necessary, officers can also assist at-risk students in accessing social services. Each officer should take an individual approach to building a rapport with each teen, and that effort would then show their genuine desire to connect. The supportive relationships that start to form, can then lead to positive conversations about smart decisions, and in turn will help students learn important life skills that will extend past this creative Coach 5-O program.