CHICAGO - The Chicago Police Department is engaging with the community by relaunching its Officer Friendly Program.
"The Superintendent has made it clear he wants to build trust through youth engagement," said Deputy Chief Dwayne Betts.
The program brings uniformed officers to visit kindergarten through third grade students in Chicago schools. This is part of CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson's effort to revamp the department's community policing strategy.
Over 50 officers volunteered to train for the program at CPD Headquarters Thursday. The training prepared officers to address a group and teach kids about calling 911, stranger danger, and safe places.
Participants hope that the school visits will be an opportunity to rebuild trust that eroded as a result of videotaped police shootings and increased gun violence.
Officer Rafael Yanez was one of the creators of the new training curriculum.
"So we have an opportunity to build those bridges, build that trust, build relationships and its connected to every issue we have in our neighborhoods," Yanez said.
Chicago's Officer Friendly Program started in the 1960s and is the nation's oldest. Since 2016, it has engaged over 26,000 students.
The program is the reason why 25-year veteran officer Romona Stovall hopes to make a difference in district she serves.
"I have children and grandchildren, and I just wanted to have a positive image for the kids and understand," Stovall said.
To date, the department has trained 150 officers in the program and says if it's successful, there will be more community trust programs in the future.