Mention the police in some Twin Cities communities, and you could get a negative response. But in Brooklyn Park, a summer mentoring program with dirt bikes is starting to change this perception.
All the teens involved are from troubled backgrounds and some have had run-ins with police. So when they find out an officer with the SWAT team is their mentor, the program can get real interesting.
Derrick Bolden, 18, and Elijah Nelson, 14, admit they’ve made mistakes and aren’t too fond of the authorities they’ve encountered along the way.
“Wasn’t really doing well with my family, getting trouble, domestics,” Nelson said.
Bolden said he doesn’t really like police, but that is starting to change because there are officers in the program that treat them well.
“I didn't really respect them as much as I do now,” Nelson said.
It’s because of mentors like Tom Minister, a veteran Brooklyn Police officer and SWAT team member. The police department is partnering with the YMCA this summer to connect officers with certain skill sets with troubled teenagers who are trying to turn their lives around.
“If I had a police shirt on, there was that instant resentment, and I almost had to prove myself,” Minister said.
Some of it involves working on a relationship at home, seeking a job, or finishing school. The dirt bikes are also really helping to bring the teenagers and police together. But the only way to make it to the track is if each teen meets their goal.
“The next day they're here they start joking with you,” Minister said. “And that rift out there slowly breaks down.”
On the surface, it seems like the teens were the only ones who needed to change. But in reality, officer Minister says, so did he.
“All of a sudden, you start to realize these kids aren't bad,” Minister said. “They're just in bad environments, or in bad situations.”