Durham police answer call to mend community relations
Posted July 27
Durham, N.C. — Several times per week, Durham police are responding to a call at the Salvation Army on Liberty Street. It’s not for a crime in progress, but for a program to help heal the rift in relations between residents and officers.
The strategy behind the program is to put cops and kids at the same table.
“We are bridging the gap, not only bridging the gap, we are healing the gap between community and police,” said James Johnson with the Salvation Army.
The program is part of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club and caters to children between the ages of 6 and 12. Yamlri Tayburn, 8, enjoyed a game of checkers with police officers and acknowledged their important role in the community.
“Even though police officers are hard workers and they help us learn, so we can have friends and we can be nice and give each other love and love each other,” Tayburn said.
Durham police officers interact with neighborhood children three times a week in an old gymnasium, but it’s not all fun and games.
“We share each other’s stories, but we have to create an environment where we are free to do that, where law enforcement is not always on and children are always back,” Johnson said.
In a game called family that was made up on the spot, a small child talked about himself and his family through play.
The goal of the program is to curb the fear of police and build trust.
‘I’ve seen when police officers first come in, the children respond in apprehension and as they begin to interact and have fun with them, now they come in and respond with welcoming arms,” Johnson said. “It’s not too late because there is always hope. We dream big, we start small and we scale up.”