The goal of the Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy is to reduce the social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement. This is accomplished through learning, interaction, and discussion between at-risk youth and the law enforcement personnel who serve their communities. Through this program, the two groups gain valuable insight about each other and the issues they face on a daily basis.
During the 11-week curriculum, TAPS covers specific topic areas associated with Children and Youth Safety (COPS-CPD-2011-3) such as violence, physical and sexual abuse, stalking, domestic trafficking, sexual exploitation and bullying. The Academy also covers law enforcement-related subject areas that are important to youth. Subject matter experts guide the youth and police officers through these topics weekly. TAPS Academy is designed to help youth: change behavior, learn responsible decision making, participate in crime prevention projects and reduce the social distance between themselves and law enforcement.
TAPS Academy builds upon the groundwork established by community policing programs such as D.A.R.E., and moves to the next phase of engaging the group least likely to participate: at-risk youth. The curriculum places these teens and law enforcement personnel on equal footing and creates an environment that encourages sharing and problem solving.
Ensuring great, dependable mentors is a key part of TAPS Academy. Police mentors stay fully involved and committed for the entire 11 weeks. They go through special workshops and training to become part of the program. TAPS Academy ensures that the diversity of mentors represents the diversity in communities in regards to race, gender and work experiences. These selected mentor officers desire to create a better life for at-risk teens by helping the students learn better ways to deal with issues they will inevitably encounter.
Dr. Everette Penn, a Professor of Criminology at University of Houston-Clear Lake, has researched the social distance between youth and law enforcement throughout his career. This led to the development of TAPS Academy through a COPS, U.S. Department of Justice grant in the fall of 2011. TAPS Academy’s first program was launched in January 2012 in Houston.
TAPS Academy has been implemented in several cities internationally including: Houston, Texas; Galveston, Texas; La Marque, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Tampa, Florida; Miami, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois, Richmond, Virginia; New York City; Ponce, Puerto Rico; St. Kitts; and the Barbados.
TAPS Academy is certified by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to grant one academic credit to high school students in Texas.
In December of 2016 the TAPS Center opened in Houston, Texas. Its vision is to be the internationally leader, reducing the social distance between youth and law enforcement through research, training, teaching and programming.
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