TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka Police Department is adopting a new program to build stronger relationships between police officers and black youth. The Our Kids Program (OK Program) is a national mentoring model for African-American boys between 12 and 18 year-olds.
The program assigns African-American police officers, trained by the program, to serve as coordinators for the youth, helping them develop leadership and critical-thinking skills.
The program’s founder and CEO Donald Northcross is a former Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy.
He says that the program will help mend relationships between police and the community and ultimately empower young African-American men.
“A lot of our men are feeling a need to be around positive black men,” he says. “And I think that this is something that they gravitate toward. When they see that there are men that they can relate to and identify with, black men will take responsibility because a lot of boys don’t have fathers in their homes.”
Participants receive different awards for achieving different things, such as earning at 2.5 GPA and demonstrating good citizenship each grading period.
Topeka Police Chief James Brown learned about the program already being implemented in Kansas City, MO.
“I was like, ‘Why didn’t we bring that successful program from Kansas City to Topeka?’”
The program also encourages black pastors to help recruit mentors. Pastor T.D. Hicks of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church says he’s ready to spread the word.
“We will be calling on all men throughout the city to be a part of this particular program,” he says.
While 3 percent of TPD’s officers are African-American, nearly all of them have expressed an interest in becoming mentors.
The program is privately funded by donors. The Topeka Police Department plans to launch the program as soon as possible.