By Steve Schuster
On Friday, the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), in partnership with the Office of Violence Prevention and the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM), announced the launch of the Milwaukee Police Athletic League (MPAL).
The Police Athletic League (PAL) is a national crime prevention initiative rooted in the belief that all youth deserve the opportunity to expand their horizons and realize their full potential, Milwaukee Police Officials said.
The PAL program experience brings youth, under the guidance and positive influence of law enforcement agencies and/or community based not for profit organizations, to expound upon the public awareness regarding the role of law enforcement and the reinforcement of the responsible values and attitudes instilled in young people by their parents, officials added.
In January 2023, MPD with UNCOM and supported by the Office of Violence Prevention began hosting monthly Teen Nights. Teen Night provides a safe, drug free and violence free social gathering environment for teens from different neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
“The Milwaukee Police Athletic League is a big win for police-community relations. We need to create more positive outlets for our youth and build stronger relationships between young people and our police officers,” Milwaukee Police Chief, Jeffrey Norman said.
“By serving as mentors, coaches, advocates and role models, our officers will connect with the community on a more personal level—building the kind of trust, understanding and support that lasts a lifetime,” Norman added.
“Partnerships are so important as Milwaukee works to build safety citywide. The Milwaukee Police Athletic League is a great addition to the efforts,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said.
“Through this, we are adding to trust among police and young people, and we’re providing new opportunities for positive activities,” Johnson added.
“Building positive police/community relationships is a foundational component of keeping our neighborhoods safe. This partnership provides an excellent opportunity for young people and law enforcement to learn from each other and destroy the stereotypes that often create tension between them. Both officers and students have found these experiences to be valuable and I look forward to supporting more of them in the future,” said Ashanti Hamilton, Executive Director, the Office of Violence Prevention.
UNCOM officials agreed.
“The natural dialogue that is occurring between UNCOM youth and MPD officers is mutually beneficial. While eating dinner, playing basketball or working on a creative project, officers are alongside youth from Milwaukee’s most promising neighborhoods. We are breaking down stereotypes between youth from different neighborhoods and between youth and MPD officers. It has been a pleasure to watch our youth grow through this experience. UNCOM is grateful for our partnership with MPD and our support from the Office of Violence Prevention,” said Renée Logee, UNCOM Executive Director.
“The Milwaukee Police Department would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the business community and all of our community partners. We would like to acknowledge Dick’s Sporting Goods for supporting this initiative with ‘activity bags’ that will allow officers to engage with our young people whether at a crime scene, neighborhood event, or just simply walking the beat. The Milwaukee Police Athletic League UNCOM Teen Nights will continue throughout 2023,” officals said.
Interested youth serving organizations should contact [email protected] for more information.