How do Teenagers Feel About Law Enforcement?

In June of 2018, the National Law Enforcement Museum launched its Teen Leadership Council. The Council consisted of eleven local high school students from Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
The purpose of the Teen Leadership Council is to create a space for motivated teens to plan programs that make the topic of law enforcement engaging for young people. Working closely with the Museum’s Education department, the Teen Leadership Council met monthly during the 2018-2019 school year to plan and organize a culminating program: A Day of Arts in the Museum. In addition to engaging with peers and Museum staff, students had an opportunity to meet law enforcement professionals. Some examples included hostage negotiators, foreign police officers, and former Secret Service agents to learn more about careers in law enforcement.
The 2018-2019 Teen Leadership Council consisted of eleven high school students from Washington, DC; Maryland, and Virginia. Each member applied for a different reason. For some, it was a way to learn more about their father’s and grandfather’s profession. For others, it was a way to learn more about criminal justice careers. Here are some excerpts from the teens’ applications:

Assiata- “The area of law enforcement that interests me the most are law enforcement professions and the impact law enforcement can have on communities. I personally want to be a criminal lawyer working on cases that deal with sexual assault or child abuse.”
Jillian- “My grandfather is inscribed on the Memorial. For me, the treatment of LEO’s is personal and I want to be a part of that conversation.”

But for most students, it was a way to try to contribute to the discourse about law enforcement and their communities.

Tommy- “I want to make a change and make people be able to call on law enforcement in their time of need.”
Kayla- “Law enforcement’s impact on communities influences me the most because I like to talk about what goes on in the world.”
Nakayla- “I think that what is happening in 2018 right now, there should be more public safety especially for gun violence because it has been crazy this year among schools, restaurants and parks, etc.”

In order to design relevant programming for their peers, the Council decided to plan a pop-up art show exhibit and a one-act play, later changed into a Teen Town Hall. The Town Hall would serve as a forum to discuss issues relevant to them, such as the use of force, the portrayal of police in the media and pop culture, and community policing efforts.
Each month, different members of the Museum staff met with the Council to share their expertise and speak about their careers. Director of Digital Marketing, Jude Crocker, helped the teens build their website content and spoke with them about harnessing social media. Diane Crespy, Assistant Director of Special Events, helped them plan for the logistics of an event at the Museum. Curator Sarah Haggarty helped explain ways they could display art in the Museum and helped them choose a location on the exhibit floor. Law Enforcement volunteers Joe Rollo and Bob Calberi were also invited to speak to the Council about their time in law enforcement.
The Day of the Arts at the Museum took place a few weeks ago on Saturday, April 27. Some Council members interpreted their art outside of the Verizon Theatre. Others supervised a Sensory Figures activity, where families drew their ideal of an ideal police officer for their community and described the attributes they would have.
Here is the video of the Teen Town Hall. Please watch to learn about how the Teen Leadership Council altered the student’s view of law enforcement, their career ambitions, and what the Teen Leadership Council taught them.