POLICE AND COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT (PACE)
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Atlanta Police Department maintains a Police and Community Empowerment (PACE) program in two police Zones in the Southeast and Southwest quadrants of the City, staffed by eight sworn police officers in each Zone. The officers are specifically assigned to Community Oriented Policing programs and encouraged to initiate new programs in conjunction with community groups and other resources. Two of the officers assigned to Southwest Atlanta adopted an elementary school and began working with the school age children who otherwise were at risk. These officers taught the children how to play chess and even organized a chess club that competes successfully against other chess clubs in the more affluent suburbs. The officers followed this success with the organization of a drama club and worked with the children to produce a play that was publicly performed by the children. This initiative by the officers is a long term investment in building the characters of our young citizens to deter violent behavior as they grow older. Our approach is to prevent violence by early positive intervention into the lives of children. These children now have a pastime that is an alternative to delinquent behavior and helps them to develop mental capabilities. Further, this initiative will foster positive relationships between children and police officers at an early age, a critical element of long term school violence prevention.
2. When was the program created and why?
The Atlanta Police Department was the recipient of a grant from The Bureau of Justice Assistance in 1994 that created the PACE Program and the officers initiated the Chess and Drama clubs in mid-1994. In addition to the chess and drama activities the officers are a the school on a regular basis to meet and counsel students. The program was initiated in response to a recurring problem of violence in City schools. The officers recognized the need to build constructive relations with children before they get older and it is too late to change bad attitudes.
3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
There are two key indicators of program effectiveness: 1) the level of participation by children in the programs initiated by the officers, and 2) attitude shifts among the participants. The first measure is sufficiently quantitative to be objectively measured and the second measure is more qualitative. The level of participation on a voluntary basis has been impressive, with twenty school children participating in the chess club. Attitude shifts can only be approximated by the comments of participants themselves and observation of behavior changes. This program has brought troubled children from the brink of a life of behavior problems back to serious dedication to positive goals. Further, withdrawn and shy children have been drawn ‘out of their shells’ by the drama club by allowing them to perform and build confidence in themselves.
4. How is the program financed?
Initially the PACE Program was funded with a federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. When the grant expired, the City of Atlanta picked up the cost of the PACE Program and it continues through the present, funded by the City of Atlanta General Fund.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
The faculty and staff at Ragsdale Elementary School, which was adopted by the PACE officers have been instrumental in the program since its inception. School personnel have been very enthusiastic about how this program has helped many children to develop self-esteem and overcome behavior problems. Parents have also been swept up in the wave of enthusiasm, as the staging of the drama club’s first performance was a major event at the school and parents interacted positively with police, gushing proudly about what their youngsters had been inspired to do by the officers.
6. Contact Person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.