Police youth academy focuses on building trust of black community

Police youth academy focuses on building trust of black community

Leaders of the Black Youth Police Academy said Wednesday that they feel the program is working to help build trust in the African-American community.

“You can see some of the kids. Maybe they’re quiet. Not quite sure. Maybe their relationship with the police isn’t quite there yet. They come here. Get to know us as people. They get to know us as people,” Madison police Sgt. Will Quast said. “It’s building those relationships. Explaining why we do the things we do. And actually letting them try it out.”

The program, now entering its fourth year, is a partnership among the Madison, Sun Prairie and Fitchburg police departments. This year, 19 incoming eighth-graders participated in the academy. Next week, the same departments will host a Latino youth academy.

The academy is being held as a new poll shows half of blacks say police have treated them unfairly. Quast said that is not surprising.

“We wouldn’t be talking about building trust if we didn’t think there was a need,” Quast said. “There’s always going to be that need.”