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Calgary Police Let Kids do the Forensics (and Maybe do Some Good)

October 9, 2015

For the second week in a row, I find myself largely applauding an initiative taken by the Calgary Police Service (for those of you who worry that I might be losing my grip: I'm neither fully satisfied nor fully optimistic about their latest effort).

The YouthLink Interpretive Centre—a new part of the Calgary Police Service's YouthLink outreach program, which is targeted specifically towards preventing crime in Calgary's youths—gives kids and other Calgary citizens a chance to get hand's on with police work, including solving various "crimes" based on a series of provided clues. The idea is to make kids more familiar with what it is the police do, getting them excited about the law enforcement side of the criminal justice system while also helping them understand that the Calgary police specifically are the good guys.

Just ask Tara Robinson, executive director of the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre:

“We want to give them information to make those decisions that will keep them on the right path throughout life in some of the pressing issues they might have as they grow older and go through teen years. The other part is lifting the veil on the Calgary Police Service … It’s really important for us to show that police officers are here to help, they’re not to be feared, and it doesn’t matter what situation kids are in.”

I'm all for anything that helps steer kids away from crime, and there's actually some evidence to support the theory that police outreach such as this can do a lot for at-risk youth in helping them make better decisions and lead more productive and fulfilling lives. I also applaud any willingness on the part of the Calgary Police Service to make their actions and activities more transparent.

On the whole, I think this new YouthLink Interpretive Centre is good for Calgary, and maybe even good for the Calgary police.

But…

As far as the mission outlined by Ms. Robinson goes, I'm not sure she—or the Calgary police as a whole—fully understand where attitudes of fear and mistrust towards their officers and their organization are coming from. Yes, some friendly interactions with uniformed officers might help at risk youths question whether all police are "bad," but when they have even greater familiarity with police officers as a constant and disruptive presence and in their families, such interactions may be too little, too late.

Mistrust of the Calgary police does not exist in certain communities simply because people don't understand the science behind crime detection and investigation. Mistrust exists because, due to a variety of potential reasons—perhaps racism, perhaps classism, almost certainly the politicization of the criminal justice process—they see certain crimes and certain types of people being prosecuted far more frequently and far more aggressively than others. They see the police as "agents of the other side" in a game that is hugely unbalanced, and not until actual balance is restored will trust be returned.

If YouthLink didn't work for you, or if you've been accused of any crime in the Calgary area, please contact me today to get the help you deserve.


This entry was posted on October 9, 2015


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