Mayor Kerry J. Donley


1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The National Association of the Police Athletic League is a police based program that is intended to promote greater trust and understanding between the youth of a community and its police officers. The Alexandria Police Athletic League (A.P.A.L.) is a juvenile delinquency prevention program. It is a recreation-oriented juvenile crime prevention program that relies heavily on athletics and recreational activities to create and cement the bond between the police officer and the youth on the street.

A.P.A.L. is based on the strong belief that children, if they are reached early enough, can develop a strong, positive attitude towards police officers, sheriff deputies, fire fighters, social and human service workers and others. A.P.A.L. believes that with little effort attitudes learned by youth from their culture or subculture can be changed. The youths gain respect of society’s laws, which leads to responsible adolescent behavior.

The Alexandria program is one of the most important and successful youth programs sponsored by the police. Most of the children involved in A.P.A.L. come from homes in all sections of the community. One of the most successful components of the program is the A.P.A.L. Drill Team with as many as 90 members. Members of the drill team attend the City’s public and private schools.

A.P.A.L. activities are primarily after school. The Alexandria program differs

from some of the other National programs in that it involves not only the police department but also the sheriff’s office, fire department and the City’s Human Services and Recreation Departments. Children from 5 to 19 years of age have a chance to be a part of the drill team or play t-ball, football, golf or baseball. The league operates with a 12 member executive board comprised of City staff from the police department, fire department, sheriff’s office, recreation department and human service department. The league also utilizes approximately 90 volunteers.

The Alexandria Police Athletic League has several components including a tutoring/study hall, a drill team, golf team, t-ball team, baseball and a football team. The drill team is made up of approximately 90 middle and high school girls and boys and has won awards all over the region. The team practices every afternoon at one of the middle schools in the City. The youths must abide by the league’s rules. The team practices precision marching and the twirling and tossing of real but non-functioning rifles. They perform in approximately 50 parades, formal ceremonies, and competitions throughout the Mid-Atlantic region each year.

The other activities of A.P.A.L. include t-ball for boys and girls from ages 5 to 7 years of age. The t-ball season is from February through May each year and involves about 15 children from the City’s elementary schools. The A.P.A.L baseball team comprised of boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 12 practice 4 days a week after school between the months of February and May. Approximately 30 youths are on two baseball teams. The A.P.A.L. football team involves approximately 30 youths between 13 and 16 years old. They practice 4 days a week with games scheduled for Saturdays. The A.P.A.L. golf team has 8 youths involved between the ages of 8 and 12 years. Their season is from August through October.

A special part of the A.P.A.L. program is the tutoring and study hall that the league members participate in after school for one hour prior to drill team practices. Teachers from the City’s schools volunteer and provide tutoring to the team members. The tutors and monitors of the study hall assist the students with getting their homework completed and provide the team members with special help in identified subjects.

2. When was the program created and why?

In 1983, a group of the citizens were concerned about the negative image the youths were developing about police officers in the community. They asked to meet with the City Manager and the Police Chief to discuss and formulate a program for the City’s youths that would create a positive interaction with police officers. They wanted one of the benefits from such a program to be a pro-active approach to reducing juvenile delinquency. As a result, an officer from the police department was selected to coordinate the program and with the help of other City employees created A.P.A.L. in the spring of 1985. They began the Alexandria Police Athletic League to prove that positive peer pressure can help the City’s youths.

3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?

A.P.A.L. activities are popular with the City’s youths and trusted by the parents. The continued growth and stability of activities are strong indicators of the program success and effectiveness. By keeping the A.P.A.L. members busy in after school activities keeps them off the streets and into organized sports and drill team practices.

4. How is the program financed?

One full time police officer, assigned to the Crime Prevention Unit, is the coordinator and director of this program. His salary is absorbed within the Department’s operating budget. Other City employees involved in the program are funded through the individual City departments’ operating budgets. Other funding is provided through public and private sector donations.

5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?

The community is very involved in the A.P.A.L. program, there are between 90 to 100 volunteers assisting with program activities. The A.P.A.L. sports activities and drill team requires a combination of parent and adult volunteers to chaperone, coach, tutor and do administrative and clerical tasks. One of the most important tasks of the volunteers is to do fund-raising activities for the program. Volunteers chaperon the different parades, practices, games and community events.

The community has expressed their enjoyment whenever they see the drill team perform. Requests for public performances have increased over the years.

6. What are major lessons learned from the program?

There is a time commitment for any police department to sponsor an A.P.A.L. program. The coordinator for A.P.A.L. has to be committed to the goals of the program and must be willing to spend many hours devoted to the youth of the City. It is only through good leadership that long lasting benefits can be achieved and that trust and cooperation between the police and the youth of the community can be developed.

7. Contact person:

Officer Raleigh G. Harsley

Youth Programs Officer

Crime Prevention Unit

Alexandria Police Department

2003 Mill Road

Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone number: (703) 838-4520

Fax number: (703) 838-6309

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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