REACH Edmonton

Edmonton police officers connected with youth from local immigrant communities for the fourth annual Police and Youth Engagement Program (PYEP), which gave them the opportunity to earn two high school credits for participating.

The program gives youth and police officers a unique chance to communicate one-on-one, build positive relationships, and learn from each other.

"PYEP aims to bring police and youth together, remove misconceptions on both sides, build trust, and create a safe space where dialogue can occur,” said Timoro Mohamed, one of four post -secondary students and prior PYEP participants hired for the summer as Youth Coordinators to plan and mentor students in the program.

PYEP allows youth to become better informed about healthy relationships, Indigenous culture, learn positive behaviours, volunteerism and police work. Community leaders and parents hope students will volunteer within their own respective communities and expand their police knowledge. This is crucial for youth from countries experiencing war; such as Iraq and Syria who may have trouble connecting with community and police in Edmonton.

“It allows youth to foster positive relationships that can overcome previously held negative opinions about police and their role in the community,” said Mohamed. “As a previous participant, and a person from one of the ethno-cultural communities, my experience has given me a greater understanding of the importance of discourse and positive interactions between youth and the EPS.”

In its fourth year, PYEP has shown that cultivating positive relationships between youth and police is a successful strategy for keeping youth engaged and away from crime.

“We believe this relationship of trust will carry on in the future and inspire youth to build stronger and safer communities,” said Deputy Chief Brian Simpson. “We want youth to be excited and empowered to make positive changes in their lives, their communities, and their futures.”

PYEP is a community-led initiative that is supported by the Edmonton Police Service, Edmonton Police Foundation, City of Edmonton, Edmonton Public Schools, Family Centre and is coordinated by REACH Edmonton. The program is offered free of charge to youth from selected communities by community leaders.

Over the course of the nine-day program, youth examined community policing issues within a cultural safety framework and how to be active in finding solutions. Approximately 43 youth ages 15 to 18 years participated. The youth came from the local Syrian, Iraqi, Eritrean, Sudanese, Oromo, Somali and Congolese communities.