BUFFALO, N.Y. — Getting people interested in policing has been tough since the pandemic. That's why a national police research organization out of Washington D.C. is trying to connect college students with police departments.
The Buffalo Police Department is participating in the internship program as they and police departments across the country admit that getting people interested in the profession isn't easy.
The George Floyd murder has put policing back, you know," Chuck Wexler the police executive research forum executive director said.
Many young people, especially those in inner cities, were turned off.
“I've definitely thought that the police had biased against certain peoples. That incident definitely showed the lack of police training and the lack of sensitivity within officers," said Erika Laster, a Buffalo Police intern.
But since then, Laster, a Lincoln University student, has taken advantage of an internship through "PERF" the Police Executive Research Forum. PERF reached out to 100 HBCU's to expose students to policing.
“I wrote a letter to police chiefs and your Commissioner in Buffalo was one of the police chiefs that said absolutely, yes." Wexler said.
“We have to build credibility and you know, having an opportunity to get some young people to come in and get a look behind the curtain at what we're doing," Buffalo Police Commissioner Joe Gramaglia said.
And he says the intern has seen it all.
“She got the same program that our new recruits get coming out. On the street, but again, also, like I said, part of you know, the investigations."
“When I'm with my friends, I'm always advocating for police because it is a bigger perspective that we don't see. There's so much that goes on behind the scenes," Laster said.
She is reflecting on her time with the Buffalo Police Department as an intern.
“Through this experience, my perception of officers has definitely changed. I decided to focus my research on police wellness and their mental health, and how it may affect their ability to do their job well," Laster said.
The program started with eight students in Baltimore last summer. The program has now tripled in size and is continuing to grow.
What has become clear is that diversifying police departments is challenging and that’s why programs like this help departments attract the best and the brightest.