KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Police officers want to connect with all members of the community, no matter how young. One way they're trying to reach that goal is through a new Youth Academy. It started this summer and allows kids ages 12 to 15 to spend a week with officers, learning about their jobs.
Today was the first day of the Youth Academy's second week long session. Kids spent their day at the crime lab, learning everything from how to take finger prints, to how police look for blood at crime scenes. It was an educational day, but kids also built relationships with police.
"I wanted to do this because I thought it was going to be cool, Alayna Kostrunek, a 7th grader said. "And it is. It's really awesome."
KCPD sent word to different schools about the Youth Academy so parents could sign their students up for the free program.
More than 100 kids from all different neighborhoods and racial backgrounds will complete three different academies this summer.
"I'm liking it, it's fun," Evan Joseph, an 8th grader said.
On day one, they got a tour of the crime lab and did things like finger printing. Later in the week, the kids will your KCPD Headquarters and learn about conflict resolution.
Sgt. Joe Bediako says the academy started to improve interactions with police.
In the last session, many kids had questions about experiences with police - either their own, or ones they heard about from others.
"We had breakout sessions, for lack of a better term, to help them talk about things like that," Sgt. Joe Bediako said.
KCPD officers say those kind of conversations are important in a time when distrust of police is high.
"Unfortunately you have some folks in our line of work that have done some wrong that we all pay a price for," Sgt. Garron Carter said. "So to be able to have that interaction as a position interaction with young kids so they can see we're not all bad, we're human just like you are, I think it goes a long way, years and years and years dividends."
Sgt. Carter says he can already see the program's impact.
" I just happened to run into a student in Westport," Sgt. Carter said. "And he's pointing out to his mom, Mom, mom that's Sgt. Carter.
You know the cool, Sgt. I told you about from the Academy. Those are some of the things that you can't measure measurable. A young lady wanted me to meet her grandmother and wants me to be at her graduation. She's just now going into 8th grade, her graduation is years down the road but we left that much of an impression in a week's time. It's priceless. "
Officers hope students in the Youth Academy will spread the word about the relationships they built.
"Next time when they come in contact with officers, they say, they're alright, they're ok," Sgt. Bediako said.
There is one more week long session left this summer. After that, KCPD will talk about how they can continue their efforts through the school year.