On Thursday, May 3, 2012 the Houston Police Department (HPD) proudly hosted the first graduating class of the Teen And Police Service Academy (T.A.P.S. Academy). The students and their guests were welcomed by Director Bernard Melekian, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office); Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr.; Dr. Everette Penn, University of Houston Clear Lake; and Dr. Diane Reed, Principal, Beechnut Academy.
The T.A.P.S. Academy was developed collaboratively by Assistant Chief Brian Lumpkin and Dr. Everette Penn and funded by the COPS Office to reduce the social distance between law enforcement and at-risk youth. It is a school-based program that builds upon the groundwork established by community policing and school and community based initiatives. Through learning, interaction, and community problem solving, the students and law enforcement officers gain valuable insight about the concerns and issues facing one another.
In February 2012 during a presentation before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Director Melekian praised the HPD’s efforts when he stated “the community policing philosophy continues to serve as a foundation for successful law enforcement practices and services. From the T.A.P.S. program in Houston, Texas, where police officers mentor at-risk youth...community policing has longevity and sustainability and has been proven as an effective solution to addressing public safety needs.”
The first T.A.P.S. Academy was held at the Beechnut Academy, a comprehensive academic and behavioral intervention program for students in grades 6 through 12, which is run by the Community Education Partners and works in partnership with the Houston Independent School District. There are over 900 students at the Beechnut Academy who were either performing two or more years below their expected grade level in reading and math; failing two or more core subjects; or were at-risk of dropping out of high school for various violations. Thirty-seven students were recognized at the inaugural ceremony for successfully completing the program.
During the 15-week program, students and police mentors delved into issues that directly impact the youth and the communities in which they live. Topics included conflict resolution, bullying, anger management, sexual and dating violence, and tips to avoiding gang life and substance abuse. The students learned powerful tools that will help them make better decisions in their daily lives and the officers obtained a greater appreciation for some very real issues facing these teenagers in their communities. Chief McClelland expressed his gratitude to the parents and caregivers of the students for being mentors in their own right and spoke directly to the students when he said, “we have a vested interest in making sure that you are the future leaders of this city and this nation so I am very proud of you.”
Director Melekian closed his remarks to the students and guests by stating, “It is incredibly significant that each student went through these 15 weeks and cared enough to finish it. Thank you to some of Houston’s finest, who cared a great deal to be here.”
Three additional academies will be held at the Beechnut Academy in fall 2012/spring 2013 and one T.A.P.S. Academy will be held in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department and H.D. Woodson High School, in spring 2013. Texas Southern University, under the direction of Dr. Helen Taylor Greene, will independently evaluate each academy and are currently gathering information about program intake and attendance; participation; student demographics; school performance; and social distance and interaction between students and police. The evaluations will explore changes in students’ perception over time as well as social distance scores. A technical assistance guidebook will be made available at the completion of the program for other jurisdictions who are considering implementing a T.A.P.S. Academy.
To learn more about the program:
Senior Social Science Analyst