COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A new Columbus Division of Police initiative seeks to celebrate new relationships between police and local teens.
Through the Teens and Police Service (TAPS) Summit, Columbus police officers will visit local schools to mentor teens in the Columbus City School District.
The 11-week program, which will feature a range of academic and extracurricular activities like CPR training and dodgeball games, seeks to foster greater police-community relations in the city of Columbus.
“At first I was kind of nervous because as an African American, Black kid, I was like, I don’t really mess with the police, ya know,” Mifflin Middle School student Jaida Anderson said.
She said the TAPS Summit, however, has changed her perception of law enforcement.
“Now, like when I see one drive by, I’ll wave, I speak to them, you know, just open myself up more to them because now I know they’re not bad, and they actually take the time to understand you and who you are,” Anderson said.
Caitlin Prange is one of Anderson’s mentors. She said it’s important to foster these types of relationships.
“Warms my heart to know that — it’s the first few weeks are always kind of tough because everybody’s not ready to come out of their shell but to see that and to hear that means that we’re doing something,” Prange said.
This TAPS celebration comes after Columbus experienced shootings in local parks — places where some students might hang out after school.
“I think it’s good for them to have a relationship with us so when those situations happen — hopefully they’re a little bit more comfortable In understanding how things are done, understanding that they can talk to us,” Prange said.
Tracey Colson is the building principal at Mifflin Middle School. She said being at the second TAPS summit is a fulfilling experience.
She said she sees the changes the mentorship has had on her students.
“A lot of students that started off in the program were borderline with their academics and their behavior, and once a student got into the program, they knew the commitment, they really changed their academics and behavior,” Colson said.
Graduates of the TAPS program spent the day going through activities along with other students who were brought in to see if they’d like to bring the program to their own schools.
“Personally, I definitely do want it to reach more other kids because other kids should learn about the police, what they do, how they do it, how they solve stuff,” Anderson said.