Waterbury National Night Out summer program aims to improve relations between police and teens

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Community groups, residents and police took over Grand Street in front of City Hall Tuesday.

It wasn’t for a protest. It was a show of unity — a chance to engage in positive interactions to build better relations. That’s one of the big goals of National Night Out.

It drew praise from police and from at least one community activist.

“We’re trying to build those relationships more and more,” said Sgt. Robert Davis of the Waterbury PD. “As you can see from this event here with the variety of people, the different groups, trust us. We’re trying to make a difference.”

“Very important,” said Arlanda Brantley, a Waterbury community activist. “This is about community engagement. Know the police officers. Know the relationship. Break barriers — especially with the extreme racial profiling happening all over the world and I’m a mother of a black son. So, I think it’s important to be here and learn from our officers — get to know them. Get to know them and not be afraid of them.”

Earlier in the day, News 8 went behind the scenes of a summer program that tries to build better relations between police officers and teenagers. The Waterbury PAL Park Corp allows PAL officers and teenagers in a summer jobs program to unite with the goal of cleaning up and improving city parks.

Two teens in the program told News 8 the interaction they have with the PAL officers four days a week has helped them change their view of police.

“In the beginning I really didn’t like police officers,” one teen said. “I thought they were very disrespectful because of what I used to see on the Internet and stuff.”

“Not trying to be racist or anything but they killed too many black people,” said another teen. “I’m not trying to be racist but, yeah.”

News 8 asked police what they hope to accomplish with the PAL Park Corp.

“As an officer, especially one from the inner-city community, helping and working with the youth is a big part of what I like to do,” said Mike Tripp, PAL Park Corp officer. “Nothing can make me prouder than helping out, teaching our youth today.”

When News 8 asked what he’s trying to teach them, he had this response: “Values, ownership, responsibility, respect, teamwork.”

The teenagers say they’re learning something else, as well.

“I’m a lot more comfortable than I was before,” one teen said.

“There were officers that I didn’t think I was going to like or get along with,” said the other teen. “And then when they came up to me, they seemed like they were very, very nice people.”

Both teens agree more work needs to be done in terms of opportunities for more positive interaction between police and young people.

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