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Side By Side: Police and Youth program


Helping police see the world
through a kid’s eyes

Cops and kids unplugged
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Side By Side program photoSide by Side: Police and Youth Program is a proven successful model for improving police/youth relations. An evaluation of the program using pre- and post- tests of both police and youth participants found:

  • Police officers’ attitudes towards youth improved as a result of their involvement with the program regardless of the gender, race/ethnicity, or number of years of service of the police officers.
  • All youth held more favorable attitudes towards the police as a result of their participation in the program.
  • The attitudes held by youth towards the police changed at a greater rate for both non-White youth and those who had prior negative experiences with the police.

Watch this brief video on Side by Side: Police and Youth Program.

Police and Youth Program

Police officers involved in this type of project will have the opportunity to interact with youth in non-authoritarian roles and develop relationships with youth that they may not normally have had the opportunity to develop.  Interactions will occur in a fun and safe venue and will provide officers with a chance to increase their understanding of youth behavior, try out ways of relating to youth, develop stronger communication skills, receive social support, observe diverse perspectives, and develop new approaches to resolving differences. 

The typical Police and Youth project will have an “adventure-based” team-building component, a series of fun activities that are enjoyable for both police and youth, a community service project; and a concluding recognition event.  Projects generally need a $3,000 to $10,000 budget that funds police overtime, contractual services and supplies.


Increase the number of police officers who are experienced and comfortable interacting with youth.

Improve youth attitudes towards police.


Increase opportunities for positive police/youth interactions.

Required Components:

  1. Involve patrol officers who do not have regular interaction with youth;
  2. Plan for and with a small group (15–25) of youth in middle or high school; include some high risk youth.
  3. Offer a series of activities that will appeal to both the youth and police; include team-building, planning time and a community service component.
  4. Ensure youth are in leadership roles and patrol officers are in non-authoritarian roles; stay away from activities with any security or teaching roles for police.
  5. Run the project with the same youth and police officers together in several sessions over a period of time; involvement of police or youth in more than one Police and Youth project provides no additional benefits.

For an 8-page document on four 4 key elements found in the most successful projects, see Keys for a Successful Police and Youth Program.

For the full evaluation report, click here.

To access the Police and Youth Program Request for Applications, click here.