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Building Bridges: a new program that is helping bring police and young people together

The Niagara County Police Department and local government have provided field trips, events, and socials to help children interact with police in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
Posted at 7:08 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 19:08:33-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The violence caught on camera sparked international protests surrounding civil rights and police brutality.

Here in Buffalo, the same ensued on a smaller scale.

The Building Bridges program came from those very protests. Started by Niagara Falls 4th District Councilman Owen Steed, the program was designed to help foster a healthy relationship between children of color and the police.

"When you are only exposed to negative things, seeing us in a positive environment ... that gives you the vibe that we're not as bad as people think we are," said Lt. Sandi Arist, one of the officers joining the 20 children this Friday on their trip to the Niagara Aquarium.

The program aims to help young people change their perceptions about police in their community through activities that take officers out of the enforcement space and into things children enjoy - sports, games, and the like.

Now rounding out its second year, both Steed and the Sheriff's Department both say the program has been a success.

They say they have done polls with the children following the program, and have seen overwhelming responses of positive feedback.

Alex Bolling-Woods is one of the children in the program that took that poll. He's also a ten year old boy that's just reached the fifth grade.

"You shouldn't be scared of police officers, they're pretty nice once you get to know them," said Bolling-Woods.

He says the program made him feel much better about police, and that he no longer fears them.