Fort Worth police and the non-profit, Operation Progress, are now collaborating on a project that connects kids with officers who will serve as mentors. Operation Progress started in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles; Fort Worth is the group's second city.
"Our program builds authentic relationships because we have the academic piece, we have the mentorship piece. We also have the family engagement piece," says Operation Progress Fort Worth Executive Director Doctor Myeshia Smith.
"At Fort Worth PD, we realized we've got to try to do things a little differently than we have," says Deputy Chief Neil Noakes. "We've got to find ways of creating opportunities for positive engagement."
Officers will work with kids and family members. Operation Progress aims to give kids and their families a chance to get to know officers in a "non-enforcement environment."
"It's an opportunity for them to see not only are we in the community, not only are we serving the community, but we are part of the community," Noakes says. "What Operation Progress does is change the hearts and minds of the student which, in turn, changes the hearts and minds of the family which, in turn, changes the hearts and minds of the community about police officers. At the same time, the reverse happens: it changes the hearts and the minds of the police officers about the community as well."
In addition to building relationships with police, Smith says Operation Progress also will give kids mentors who can help them develop academically, socially and emotionally.
"All of those pieces are intertwined," she says. "We have our police officers assisting their mentees with math work. We have police officers taking their mentees back-to-school shopping."
Officers will serve as mentors from 3rd grade through high school and into college or a career.