California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 7

REDWOOD PD launches effort to better understand city’s youth The five high school students took a seat on the couches as three cops and a school official intently studied their faces. But instead of grilling the teens about a stolen iPhone, graffiti on the gym wall or some other criminal incident, the adults were on hand to bend their ears – and to hear their opinions about what constructive summer programs the kids would be interested in participating in should they become available in Redwood City. Introducing SCAN, for Student Community Advisory Network – a program recently launched by the Redwood City Police Department that is believed to be the only one of its kind in California law enforcement – and perhaps other states. “Coffee with Cops,” community town halls – these are common ways police departments reach out to take the pulse of their communities. Yet such events almost always are exclus ively attended by adults. Redwood City Police Chief JR Gamez, in his job now for about 1½ years, says SCAN is the result of discussions that began a few months ago concerning how the Redwood PD could devel- op a deeper understanding of the needs of the city’s youth. Now, once a week, the creator and main facilitator of SCAN, Redwood City Police Capt. John Spicer, and a fellow officer or two meet with up to six students from the city’s two high schools to hear what’s on their minds – and to collaborate on ways cops and youth can better work together. The Redwood City P.D. has 95 sworn officers and a total staff of 125 that serve the city of about 78,000 located on the San Francisco Peninsula. SCAN, Gamez says, is part of a larger effort to better serve all segments of the city, including groups that traditionally are underserved or underrepresented. “While we don’t know where all of this exactly is going to end up, we already are confident that these meetings will result in enhancing our policing efforts,” Gamez says. The SCAN program kicked off about a month ago and ten- Members of the Redwood City P.D.’s Student Community Advisory Network (SCAN) attend a recent meeting. Sgt. John Spicer, who developed the innovative program, is shown in the middle (red tie). To his left is juvenile specialist Manuel Velarde, and the female officer is Diana Villegas. The topic for the meeting was what constructive summer programs the kids would be interested in participating in should they become available in Redwood City. FALL 2013 | California Police Chief 7