Challenges Starting YPI with Franklin Field

Police Reluctance/Resistance

Although Boston has a history of investment in community policing efforts, Paul Lewis said one of the biggest challenges was that NAFI was not based in Boston and thus was unknown to the Boston Police Department and Boston Housing Authority. Local institutions and organizations claimed they could do programs like YPI internally without hiring NAFI:

Challenges gettingYPI started was that NAFI wasn’t positioned in Boston. We had people say, “We can do this,” but nobody was doing it. I’ve been hearing that for 40 years of my career. We’ve had some serious racial stuff going on in Boston for decades. [However,] Boston police have always done a good job establishing relations with the community. That’s why you’ll never have a Ferguson happen in Boston. [Yet,] getting some of the brass to believe in it, that this is something not coming from BPD [Boston Police Department] but from an outside entity; and the entity is also outside of Boston, then bringing in the Boston Housing Authority [BHAJ.We had to [all] agree on our mission and the implementation.

True to NAFI’s Normative Approach, Lewis was able to persuade the Boston police leadership that YPI was distinct:

It’s around really building trust, not just having the conversation. Anybody could do a dialogue, but this is about enhancing and growing relationships. Once we got Chief Jimmy Claiborne involved, it really started trickling down to the rank and file; it worked.

Residents’ Mistrust of Police

Lewis relayed that another challenge was that residents were very' wary' of any police interaction because of Federal raids and subsequent mass arrests:

One of the major obstacles was getting into Franklin Field. They didn’t want to have anything to do with the police. In 2006 the FBI, ATF, did a huge raid and got 200 of the major gang members out of there. Right after that,“Here comes NAFI.Who are these people coming in?” We had to convince the residents that, “This is a good thing, and you need to have a relationship with the police.” It was always so adversarial. It took massaging on a weekly basis. They didn’t want it to happen, but we had the leadership from the Housing Authority and from the police. We also had leaders in that community who said, “Let’s give this a chance.”

Starting YPI in Franklin Field took collaboration amongst leaders from housing, the residents, and police.These are key principles of community policing discussed further in Chapter 9.

Keys to Success of YPI

Uniqueness of YPI: “This Is Different”

Lt. Torigian reiterated what Paul Lewis said about persuading police that YPI was distinctly different from other youth police programs that had been tried unsuccessfully before:

Paul is fantastic, but we had to learn what the YPI was. I had some reservations because I’ve had some companies come in and they want to jam down your throat what they want to do. I think our police officers are very different.The things [workshops] would be two days.They’d [program directors] be all happy, and it was a disaster. Police officers would go away angry. The kids would go away angry.

YPI started with, “Yes, we can do this” but we weren’t sure how it was going to work. We got our first group, of 10 to 12 kids. I always have my community service officer in no uniform, and I always came in uniform.

[The program] was that good that we’d sit there for two or three hours and do nothing that was supposed to happen that night. The kids might have wanted to talk about a shooting or a police incident somewhere else. If we had to sit and talk about, “I think this police officer’s rotten,” it worked. That was, I think, the main difference for me [between YPI and other programs]. Other ones we tried, it was, “We’re not going to talk about that.” If you aren’t going to let the kids talk about what they want to, why are they going to be there? I can’t thank them enough because they [Jay Paris and Paul Lewis] allowed me to say, “This is what we should do tonight, rather than stick to a pre-planned agenda.” We just sit back and listen. The kids, they love that. “We put a weight room in for you, what else do you want?”They want the world. “All right, ‘If we can do it, we’ll give it to you.’”

Lieutenant Torigian shared that through YPI youth were not only able to build trust with police, they were able to identify positive activities they wanted in their community.

 
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