A group of young teens from the San Bernardino City Unified School District’s Restorative Youth Court program had the opportunity to watch a motocross race between various Southern California Fire and Police agencies Tuesday morning at Glen Helen Raceway with officers from the San Bernardino Police Department Police Activities League (PAL).
In its second year, the partnership between PAL and Youth Court provides the opportunity for at-risk youth to develop trust with local police in casual and fun settings throughout the year. Roughly a dozen police officers volunteer on major outings that have included a camping trip in the local mountains and wakeboarding at an area lake.
Youth, selected by district personnel identified at risk for wayward behavior, are taken out of their comfort zones and exposed to new experiences through field trips that contrast with their daily lifestyles.
“We took the kids up past Big Bear and taught them wilderness and survival skills; we like to include an educational component to the trips,” explained Det. Chris Flowers. “We have them work together as a team, which is important for kids’ development. After, they continue to maintain positive relationships with their community.”
According to Community Engagement Specialist Eileen Hards the goal of the partnership is to bridge the gap between youth and police by fostering trust and promoting camaraderie through recreation.
“It usually takes kids a couple of days to let their guards down, but when they do they see that there are other things out there,” said Sgt. Brett Baker, who shared how several youth adamantly refused to try wakeboarding due to fear or the inability to swim. “They all tried it. They trusted us to try something new and potentially dangerous. They had confidence in us.”