BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nationwide and locally, there are many initiatives right now working to repair the relationship between the community and law enforcement.
A new project in the City of Buffalo was announced Thursday.
The Osborne Association and the Buffalo Police Department are teaming up for an initiative aimed at minimizing trauma for children whose parents have been arrested and implementing what they describe as "child-sensitive policing."
"Osborne had been working for several decades with children of incarcerated parents and really observed that over those years one of the most trauma-inducing factors in the lives of children of incarcerated parents was being present when their parents were arrested," Osborne Association Senior Advisor Denise O’Donnell said.
Deputy Police Commissioner Barbara Lark said she and Commissioner Byron Lockwood were immediately supportive support of the initiative because they, too, have seen the impact on children.
Lark shared a personal story on the matter.
"I was a community police officer many years ago," she said, "and I was at a community event. And as I walked through and waved my hand at this young boy, about 3 years old, he was sitting with a female adult, and I was expecting a friendly response, and he says, 'I don't like police.'
"I was really taken aback by this, and I spoke to the female adult that he was with. She was his aunt, and she said to me, 'His father was arrested.' "
Lark continued: "This was the impact that the arrest had on that young boy, and I went to my car, and I got some coloring books and some police stickers, and I just refused to leave that situation like that because it just bothered me so much that this kid felt that way about police. So when I gave him the coloring books and the stickers and I talked to him for a little while, when I left, he had a different attitude and a different opinion about police."
The new program will be broadly based on a model protocol for child-sensitive arrest practices, but training and resources will be modified to the specific area.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the partnership is critical to strengthening the community/police relationship.
"We think it's essential to reducing trauma in children in our community and putting children of parents who have been arrested on a healthier path to success in the community," the mayor said.
The project, sponsored by AT&T and the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, is expected to train more than 750 officers.
There are other key partners, including Voice Buffalo and the University at Buffalo Institute of Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care
Training is expect to get started this summer.