The Teen and Police Service Academy’s (TAPS Academy) goal is to reduce the social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement. This goal is being accomplished through learning, interaction and discussion between at-risk youth and the law enforcement personnel that serve their communities. Through this program, TAPS students and law enforcement personnel gain valuable insight about each other and the issues they face on a daily basis.
During the 11 week curriculum, TAPS covers specific topic areas associated with Children and Youth Safety(COPS-CPD-2011-3) such as violence, physical and sexual abuse, stalking, domestic trafficking, sexual exploitation, and bullying. The curriculum also covers law enforcement related subject areas that are important to youth. Subject matter experts guide the youth and police officers through these topics weekly. TAPS Academy is designed to help youth: change behavior, learn responsible decision making, participate in crime prevention projects, and reduce the social distance between themselves and law enforcement.
TAPS Academy builds upon the groundwork established by community policing programs such as D.A.R.E., and moves to the next phase of engaging the groups least likely to participate, at-risk youth. TAPS Academy places at-risk teens and law enforcement personnel on equal footing and creates an environment that encourages sharing and problem solving.
Dr. Everette Penn, an Associate Professor of Criminology at University of Houston-Clear Lake has researched the social distance between youth and law enforcement throughout his career. This research lead to the development of TAPS Academy through a COPS grant in the fall of 2011. TAPS Academy’s first 15 week program was launched in January of 2012 in Houston, TX.