The Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) celebrated a significant milestone at the Corner Ballpark on June 2, hosting “PAL Day,” an exciting event for Detroit middle schoolers who recently completed a seven-week program focused on fostering relationships between youth and law enforcement.
According to event organizers, PAL Day aims to provide an enjoyable experience for students while imparting valuable lessons about policing within the community.
The event, orchestrated by the nonprofit PAL, underscored the idea that everyone is part of the same team, breaking down barriers between the police and the community.
According to the nonprofit’s website, the group works with the Detroit Police Department and community volunteers to create opportunities for youth to participate in sports and interact with police officers.
Eighth-grader Natalia Chappell shared that she’s grateful for PAL and acknowledged the positive impact the program has had on her life.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with PAL and critical conversations and things like that. I actually appreciate some of the things they do for us,” she said.
PAL Day marked the culmination of the Ford Critical Conversations program, a seven-week initiative designed to educate Detroit middle schoolers about the role of police officers in neighborhoods and promote better interactions with them.
“Gradually, as they witnessed the officers’ compassion and gained exposure to different perspectives, we observed not only an increase in their knowledge but also a stronger connection with the officers,” Detroit PAL CEO Fred Hunter explained.
A significant outcome of the program was the transformation in perception and trust toward law enforcement.
Corporal Marcus Norwood, a former PAL student who now mentors the next generation, said there was a positive change in attitudes.
“Initially, a few students stated that they would never pose with a police officer on social media. However, their opinions have shifted since participating in this program, and that’s something we’re proud of,” Norwood shared.
Last year, fewer than 60% of Critical Conversations participants expressed trust in law enforcement. However, by the program’s conclusion, that figure had risen to over 80%.
“I wasn’t particularly fond of the police. I kept my distance and stayed away,” Chappell admitted. “Now, I maintain a neutral stance, but I understand that not all police officers fit the negative stereotype. I know they can be kind and approachable, and I’ve had positive interactions with them.”
As this year’s Critical Conversations program comes to an end, the goal is to expand it nationwide and continue nurturing positive relationships between law enforcement and communities. The impact of PAL Day and the Ford Critical Conversations program exemplifies the profound influence of education, understanding and shared experiences in dismantling barriers and cultivating trust between police and the people they serve.