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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

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March 2020 | Volume 13 | Issue 3

It's no secret that law enforcement is beneficial to the community in more ways than one. Local Police Athletic/Activities Leagues, for example, are excellent mentorship programs that help to build trust and positive community relations between a community and its law enforcement agency. The National Police Athletics/Activities Leagues, Inc. (National PAL) believe young people, if reached early enough, can effectively increase social-emotional skills, develop positive classroom behavior, increase school attendance and even improve high school graduation rates through structured out-of-school-time initiatives and mentorship. In fact, we provide the tools and resources to help law enforcement agencies achieve this and much more.

But how do you know your community is a prime candidate to start a PAL chapter and become affiliated with National PAL? Here are five surefire signs that will tell you a PAL chapter is right for you:

  1. Poor school attendance. Children who do not attend school on a consistent daily basis not only fail to establish a structured routine, but significantly increase their chances of dropping out of high school and never aspiring for higher education. PAL chapters’ in or after-school programming can aid in preventing truancy and increase graduation rates with academic aid.
  2. Poor educational standards. Overcrowded and underfunded schools face challenges in implementing discipline and order in their schools. Children also have the tendency to disconnect from school if the school is not meeting their needs. PAL chapters can expand young peoples’ horizons, exposing them to a world of beneficial alternative options for higher education.
  3. An increase in incidents involving youth during non-school hours.Children who are not enrolled in afterschool programming, particularly unsupervised youth, are prone to using their free time negatively, potentially engaging in crime and drugs. By establishing a PAL chapter as a safe place, you can significantly decrease their chances of participating in vandalism, violence, and other crime-related activities.
  4. Violence or gangs in their neighborhood. The saying goes, hurt people hurt people. If a neighborhood is violent, the children who live there will have a tendency to be more prone to delinquency.
  5. Poverty factors. Juvenile delinquency is more common in poorer neighborhoods. While all neighborhoods are not exempt from delinquent activities, it is believed they happen more in areas where children feel they must commit crimes to prosper.

Does your community have at least three out of five? If so, you may find starting a PAL chapter to be advantageous.

It is easy to start a PAL chapter, even for small law enforcement agencies with limited budgets. PAL chapters are entirely customizable according to the unique needs of your community. National PAL has helped successfully start and provides resources for maintaining PAL chapters for more than 75 years. Each year members of PAL Chapters all over the country gather to attend an annual National Training and Development Conference to sharpen their skills to maintain the success of their PAL. Furthermore, National PAL has grant funding available to assist chapters with some of their basic needs. Youth enrolled in National PAL–affiliated PAL chapters have the opportunity to attend an annual Youth Mentoring and Leadership Summit at no cost to the youth.

So where do you begin? First, you should obtain the support of your police chief or sheriff. With their support, you can begin drafting your PAL chapter bylaws and selecting an advisory board to help you with the expertise you may be missing. Find people who are great in finance to help you with your budgeting and accounting. Next, locate people experienced in marketing to promote your PAL. Most importantly, find people who are ready to help you get your PAL up and running. You can also visit the National PAL website for a complete Getting Started Guide.

In 2015 the Harvard Business Review revealed 84 percent of CEOs said mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes. When the Center for Workplace Leadership surveyed Fortune 500 companies in 2016, over 70 percent of them had formal mentoring programs at their companies. Why? Because investing in mentorship and leadership development pays off. The effects of mentorship are beneficial for youth—both in the short and long-term—and the community has the opportunity to see a reduction in juvenile crime and delinquency.

Get started on your mentorship program today! Please visit the National PAL website for information and to learn how to start or affiliate your PAL Chapter.

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