For the past three years, the city of Mauldin’s Police Department has simultaneously cracked down on student misbehavior while befriending those same students. This year, the state Municipal Association awarded them for both their efforts and their success.
Mayor Don Godbey of Mauldin believes the four programs implemented complement the city’s recent zero-tolerance policy:
We have taken an aggressive stand on identifying and dealing with gang related issues. We have a gang officer in our community. But instead of just doing punitive measures to stamp out those concerns, we also want to become proactive and preventative.
He says one of these proactive and preventative measures is the Fifth Quarter program:
We had some concerns about unwanted activities after football games, and we partnered with the local churches to reserve a roller rink and have some pizza and give a healthy outlet for some of that energy after the football games. We’re talking now about expanding that to the basketball season.
Another program is the Youth Academy, a three to four-week summer camp for middle schoolers, in which Godbey says students are prepped for service:
They go through police training, physical training, fire department–learn about physical activity, discipline, and all those kinds of things. And these are kids that may go into the Explorer program at the high school level.
The Explorer program allows officers to personally mentor at-risk high school students as potential candidates for future service. He says it’s “kind of like an ROTC for police and fire, so that kids can get a hands-on and a real sense of if that’s the career track they want to follow.”
Perhaps Godbey’s favorite is the Youth Court:
The crowning achievement I think is the fourth element, which is our Youth Court, which we’ve been doing the last several years. This is a program that allows high school students that have committed generally minor offenses, but still fairly significant–fighting, theft, things like that–that will be tried by their peers at Mauldin High School.
In order to appear in Youth Court, the accused student must plead guilty and abide by what the jury of peers determines are the appropriate consequences. But on the upside, the student avoids the family court system or DJJ, nothing goes on the student’s record, and the student has the opportunity to serve in Youth Court in the future, where students do just about everything, including serving as the jury or as prosecution or defense. On the bench, however, is a real municipal judge or a police officer.
Not only has Mauldin been receiving positive feedback about the programs from both officers and students, but recidivism rates are going down as well. For this reason, Godbey believes the rest of the state should take note.
I’ve talked with folks at DJJ to try and on a statewide level encourage replication of this throughout the state. It will save scarce tax dollars, and it does build a more positive relationship between law enforcement and our students.
The programs were initiated by Chief Bryan Turner.