California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 25

Morgan Hill PD takes the Time to Invest in their City’s Youth [ By Chuck Flagg, V.I.P. Morgan Hill PD Morgan Hill is a city of approximately 40,000 residents located about 20 miles south of San Jose, towards the far end of Silicon Valley. Its police department is approved for 36 sworn officers, 6 paid reserve officers, and 20 non-sworn support positions. Officer Sara Alanis talks with local high school students at their school campus. T he department is committed to better serving its community and has adopted a strategic plan in order to do so. During his first year on the job, Police Chief David Swing met with students at the local high schools and asked, “How can the police and youth work to improve our relationship?” From these meetings one central theme emerged, create more opportunities for positive encounters. The department worked in collaboration with the Morgan Hill Unified School District to establish three key programs supporting two of the strategic plan’s outcomes: Increase trust and confidence in the police department and Increase feelings of safety of the residents. Youth Mentoring Through Sports One of the successful collaborations is an after-school program for some 80 at-risk middle school students (7th and 8th graders). Organized by Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance President Jeff Dixon, students participate twice a week during the seven week long season. Activities included co-ed sports [ Chief David Swing and Captain Jerry Neumayer chat with a young Morgan Hill resident during National Night Out. such as soccer, flag football, kickball, dodge ball, and inner tube water polo. Aimed at youth who might not be able to find a connection to sports through traditional routes, the program is supported by a variety of agencies: Morgan Hill Police Department (through coaching and mentoring), Recreation and Community Services Division (through access to the city’s indoor and outdoor athletic facilities), and the School District (through selecting students, providing transportation and high school student coaches). Morgan Hill School Board Trustee Claudia Rossi praises the program, pointing out that parents usually are not home to supervise their children immediately after school and this 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. activity keeps students positively engaged during this crucial part of the day. “This was an opportunity for students to perhaps have a first positive encounter with the police. The mentoring and encouragement received from the officers may help these students to avoid some bad choices later in their lives.” SPRING 2014 | California Police Chief 25