By Jessica Easthope
Walking into a police officer’s world isn’t an easy thing to do, but 14-year-old Troi Douglas is up to the challenge.
“We do scenarios like domestic violence traffic stops,” Troi said, “like that, and will basically act it out, and they’ll give us feedback. Tell us what we did good with the wrong.”
Troi is an NYPD explorer. She’s part of a program for teens who live in neighborhoods that put them at-risk of getting involved in gangs, drugs and violence, but show a passion for law enforcement.
“Maybe they committed their first offense, God forbid,” said Youth Coordination Officer Chandrapaul Temal. “We kind of introduce ourselves right there, that aspect, and put ourselves right between them and the criminal justice system. We try to give them a way out. Out of the more than two dozen kids who take part in the 77th Precinct’s youth programs, 100 percent of them do not re-offend.”
In recent years, the NYPD has grown its community policing. Because of the Explorer program, Troi has been able to stay out of trouble and keep her eye on the prize.
“I know the consequences,” she said, “and mostly I don’t want to get involved because I want to, one day, be a part of the law enforcement. So I really have to control my behavior.”
The 77th Precinct is expanding its outreach and introducing the programs to community leaders in Crown Heights like Father Frank Black, the pastor of St. Matthew’s Church.
“I think this is a very hopeful sign,” said Father Black. “Maybe a sign of policing in the future where it’s not just necessarily the punishment, but it’s working with other people to make the community better as a whole.”
As for the NYPD’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers, getting to follow-up on the people they serve and protect is the most rewarding part. Saskya Rodriguez sees her job as a Neighborhood Coordination Officer through the lens of a mom and as a Catholic.
“You really get to connect with people,” Saskya said, “especially when you see kids who have to witness a lot of this crisis. Sometimes it means a lot to them to know they have more guidance.”
The officers say they don’t always know what’s best for every kid, but they know that somehow they can help make a difference.