Fresno law enforcement is partnering with a local school to offer students the chance to learn from a police officer in a new pilot program.
The program aims to build bridges between youth and law enforcement in high-crime areas. It was launched in early February.
Under the new pilot program — Providing Individuals Valuable Opportunities Today (PIVOT) — 90 students at Birney Elementary School in Central Fresno will be able to take a class taught by a police officer.
According to an ABC30 report, PIVOT is the result of a partnership between the Fresno Police Department and the Fresno County Office of Education.
The curriculum will touch on topics like social media, gangs, drugs, guns, mental health, bullying and resiliency. It is intended for sixth grade students.
Officer Lindsay Dozier was hand-selected to teach the class. The 24-year veteran of the department said it’s important for police to build positive relationships with the youth.
“It’s important that we build relationships at that sixth grade level. Here, they are starting to make their minds up about people and things and places. They need to know that we are on their team, that we are not there because we have to be there, but we are there because we care about them,” Dozier said.
Sixth grade teacher Robert Garcia said the program will help students make better life decisions.
“The bottom line is they know that someone is there for them. There’s going to be someone there who not only cares for them, but who’s going to encourage them to go ahead and be the best that they can be,” Garcia said.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said that although his department is currently understaffed, the investment is necessary for the future safety of the community.
“We have to work hard to change that image, and it’s important that we are visible. We are there as mentors, as friends, as people who are going to provide safety for those kids,” Balderrama said.
School officials hope to eventually expand the pilot program to multiple elementary schools across the county.