A Conversation with Mica Warton, Youth/Police Dialogues Coordinator
YW: What is the goal of Youth/Police Dialogues (YPD)?
MW: Our goal is to give youth and police officers the tools they need to understand each other and where they’re coming from. We try to support them where they are. We want to build a deeper understanding and humanize each to the other since it’s so easy to distance yourself. We want them to see that they’re all members of the same community.
How is YW Boston making change through YPD?
In Boston’s recent history we haven’t had any high profile incidents like we’ve been seeing around the country. Hopefully that’s a testament to Boston’s commitment to community policing.
But it would be dangerous to assume that all the work has already been done. That’s where YW Boston comes in. We encourage people to think more deeply. There’s a lot we can do with training, but we need to confront our own biases.
Youth/Police Dialogues addresses stereotypes. It’s important to know they exist. All change comes with awareness first.
Hopefully officers who have participated in YPD will approach situations with a new viewpoint. The youth and officers are our ambassadors. They show people that things can be done differently.
How are youth responding to recent events?
Many of the young people participating in our current dialogue series are confused and scared. They’re afraid to leave their houses, afraid they’ll be shot for how they look or act. They were quick to say, “Not you,” to the police officers participating in the dialogue, but they’re unsure how officers they don’t know will respond. “I guess that’s why we’re here,” one of the youths said.
What are your hopes for YPD going forward?
As sad and hard as it is, when things come into the public eye, that’s when change happens. This is not a new issue, but now people are paying attention. I hope it will be easier to keep the momentum going and get more support for YPD. We are working hard to expand the program and train new facilitators so we can host more dialogues.
You can make change for youth and police officers by supporting YW Boston today.