Workshop: How Communities Foster Positive Youth and Police Relationships

Police-Community Relations Track:

Location: Hilton Denver City Center
1701 California Street, Denver, CO 80202
Date: Friday, June 22, 2018
Time: 11:15am – 12:30pm Workshop Block 2
Room: Penrose 2

Click here to view the 2018 National Conference on Local Governance & All-America City Awards combined agenda.


Gia Irlando is the Community Relations Ombudsman for Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor and the co-founder of the Bridging the Gap: Kids and Cops program which was created to improve outcomes for youth in Denver during police contacts.  The project educates law enforcement on adolescent brain development, implicit bias and disproportionate minority contact; trains community leaders, including youth, to facilitate dialogue between youth and officers; and convenes five-hour forums with youth/young adults and Denver police officers.  Gia has a lengthy background in community engagement and electoral campaigns in Colorado, Texas and California and has devoted her career to equity issues including increasing the representation of people of color in elected office.  She is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).

Danny McLaughlin is Program Director at Teen Empowerment in Somerville. He first became involved with Teen Empowerment as a youth, giving a speech at TE’s first large event in Somerville. He became a Program Coordinator in 2005. Now serving as Program Director, Danny has been in the field for 13 years in which he has gained expertise in youth-police relationships including leading youth-police walking dialogues, community engagement meetings, basketball and soccer tournaments and training of Somerville rookie police officers. Danny is also an active volunteer for various Somerville causes, including the Somerville Boxing Club.


Through the Bridging the Gap: Cops & Kids program, Selena Ramirez of Denver has been on bike rides, visited a local amusement park and toured the Broncos stadium with police officers who work in her Denver neighborhood. She also has worked with officers over the summer as well as learned a lot about the government, voting, politics and her rights. Ramirez credits these experiences with giving her “a great beginning skill set that will certainly help prepare for my future objectives.” Ramirez has gone beyond the fun by building entrepreneurial skills, selling tie-dye products at Bronco games and farmers markets, and helping other children with reading, writing and math skills, with an I-ready lab, a K-12 adaptive diagnostic program. Ramirez, a recent high school graduate, is pursuing a psychology degree and plans to continue working with children.


Officer Derrick Keeton, a Denver native, has been with the Denver Police Department for five years. After graduating college, Keeton worked as a high school post-secondary counselor and as a high school coach, both baseball and football.  Officer Keeton has been a volunteer fire fighter with the South Adams County Fire Protection District for the past nine years. These experiences enabled Keeton to build and use leadership and communications skills. Keeton has taught 15 Denver Police Department classes “Positive Interactions with Youth” and has built a solid track record of working with Denver youth from all walks of life. Keeton earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Northern Colorado.

How Communities Foster Positive Youth and Police Relationships:

Building relationships between young people and police can bring positive results for your city. Efforts in Massachusetts and in Denver help officers and youth see the other with fresh eyes. Officers can learn how to effectively interact with young people, and young people learn the difficulties of policing.

Bridging the Gap: Kids and Cops in Denver, Colorado and Teen Empowerment in three sites in Massachusetts work to build relationships between young people and police in an effort to allow each to educate and understand the other.  This education and dialogue is powerful and can contribute to increased safety, decreased system involvement for youth, and better community trust in policing

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