COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Columbus division of police is using a school program to invest in the city’s future.
Tuesday, several dozen Columbus Africentric Early College students graduated from the teens and police service (TAPS) academy.
“It feels good, but I want to keep going. I want to do it again,” said Latieah Latham.
At the beginning of the ten week program, the eighth grader was reluctant to work closely with police officers.
“A lot of kids in the program, when they first came they really didn’t like the police [because of] what we had been seeing,” she said. “But once we really got to know, know, them we were like, ‘Wow, they’re really fun. They’re really cool.’”
Lt. Elrico Alli helped mentor Latham and change her view of law enforcement.
“We don’t want the youth to think of us as a negative force,” Lt. Alli said. “We want to make sure they understand we the police are a resource to them.”
Each semester, Columbus Police officers volunteer their time to mentor students. They focus on issues facing teens, like bullying, peer pressure and stress, and teach them adult skills like communication and conflict resolution.
Lt. Alli explained, “They can take this knowledge, they can spread it and they can use it as they grow up to become responsible adults and members of the community.”
The TAPS team hopes program graduates will become community leaders and spread the lessons they learned in the academy.
“Your mind is definitely going to change,” Latham said. “You’re going to know what to do.”
Throughout the school year, the officers will continue checking in on the students they mentored and maintaining the relationships they built.