Trending Topics

How PAL makes a difference for cops, kids and communities

PAL programs teach teens accountability for the choices they make in life


New York Police Department Deputy Chief Kathleen O’Reilly, middle, the commanding officer of Manhattan North, joins in a tug-of-war with campers from the Police Athletic League, Wednesday, July 8, 2015 in New York. The league has been serving New York City youth since 1914.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Videos and photographs on social media that show police and youth shooting hoops together, playing soccer, dancing and other activities demonstrate the development of trust and cooperation between teens and cops.

However, such connections between police and youth in the community existed long before Facebook and Twitter.

Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) has long history

In 1914, New York City Police Commissioner Arthur Woods began a social movement that came to be known as the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues (PAL), a youth mentoring program that uses civic, educational, athletic and recreational activities to create understanding and trust between youth and law enforcement.

PAL engages cops with youth – using role models and reinforcement – to teach teens about the accountability factors surrounding the choices they make.

Former PAL Executive Director Joseph Perishing – who served as the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and executive director of the Washington DC Police Foundation – brought a tremendous level of knowledge and expertise to PAL. Dedicated to its purpose, he enthusiastically bridged youth with law enforcement.

Persichini assembled resources from the business community to support law enforcement’s outreach and youth programming efforts.

“It’s a national synergy for us looking at solutions. Law enforcement cannot be successful without the faith and trust of the people they serve,” Persichini said.

Youth need to learn how to face challenges and understand that making wrong decisions can be life-altering. With the advantage of having law enforcement officers serve as role models, youth can obtain a healthy perspective and bond with professionals who make a difference in the lives of others.

“It is about mentoring, providing life skills and work force development. We want them (youth) to consider a profession in public safety. We have jobs. We have good jobs. We want to prepare youth to take these jobs and go back to help. We need it (police work) to become that dream job again,” Persichini said.

PAL brings officers and youth together; the officers that work with PAL must have critical awareness and the ability to relate to kids. A lot of PAL centers are run by retired officers. Mentoring relationships evolve through sports center activities. Additionally, meals are provided during holidays such as Thanksgiving.

PAL programs are customized to community needs

PAL programs retain a significant amount of flexibility that allow for adjustments to be made to fit a community’s needs. A recommendation in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing affirms the development and funding of training and life skills through positive youth/police collaborations and interactions.

PAL has also solicited grants and established public partnerships with corporations such as Verizon, Motorola, Walmart, Target and CVS. The goal is to get the business community to lend support and invest in the future for the benefit of these police/youth mentoring relationships. These public/private partnerships bring assets and capabilities that law enforcement does not have.

It is vital for the American people to understand there are law enforcement officers and agencies working with youth to build trust and establish healthy and respectful relationships that is counter to all the negative information that the public is being saturated with from news outlets and media sources. Federal money directed to programs that focus on boots on the ground and mentoring, such as PAL, helps develop positive messaging.

Community policing cannot be established and enhanced without having officers ready and available to work with youth daily. The development of relationships that build faith and trust is a long-term commitment for every police department in America.

Karen L. Bune is an Adjunct Professor at George Mason and Marymount universities and a consultant for the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and Domestic Violence, a nationally recognized speaker, she also serves on the Institutional Review Board of The Police Foundation. She received the Police Chief’s Award and County Executive’s Recognition of Service Certificate from Prince George’s County, MD. She is in the Wakefield High School (VA) Hall of Fame. She holds the AU Alumni Recognition Award and Marymount University’s Adjunct Teaching Award. She appears in “Marquis Who’s Who in the World” and in “America.”