Misk Al Fadli pulls a 68 kg. mannequin for 15 metres at the Edmonton Police Service downtown headquarters on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. She was participating in the Police and Youth Engagement Program along with other 14-17 years-old youth from the Oromo, Sudanese, Somali, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Syrian and Iraqi communities for a two-week long summer program that strives to build mutual understanding and positive relationships between youth and police.
Larry Wong / Postmedia
A group of teens from immigrant families are spending a part of their summer building bridges with Edmonton city police as they learn more about leadership.More than 50 students aged 14 and over are using two weeks of their summer to learn and interact with officers at the seventh annual Police and Youth Engagement Program.The program was started by leaders in the Edmonton-African community and Joseph Luri, one of the program’s founders, said the effort began as a way to break down negative images of police some communities may have based on negative experiences in other countries.“A lot of our families come from their countries of origin as places where the police are above the law,” said Luri. “Also, our young men were developing an attitude with police, so we said we need to build bridges with the police to let them understand what the role of the police is.”The program wraps up Friday with a formal graduation ceremony. Over the course of the program, students are visiting northeast police headquarters, going on a beat walk with officers and attending a number of workshops.Martin Lubajo, whose family originally comes from South Sudan, became a youth leader this year after previously participating in the program. He said it taught him to see police in a different light.“I realized that cops are just regular people like you and me and they don’t want to be like that terrible stigma,” said Lubajo. “Of course, there are going to be some rotten apples, but not all of them are like that. The majority of them are just ordinary good people.”The bridge-building is being seen from both sides. Const. Jacqueline Buchanan has worked with the program for the past five years and says she still keeps in contact with past participants.“I hang out in my jeans and my Converses, and then I come back later in my uniform. A couple of days later, I’ll come back not in my uniform, so we try to humanize it,” said Buchanan.The program also incorporates a parent night to help build a better rapport with the new Canadians.email@example.com