DPD Program Builds Trust Among Hispanic Youth

While police departments across the country are under scrutiny because of controversial incidents, like questionable officer involved shootings, an effort underway to build trust between Dallas officers and young children.

The Dallas Police Department's Police Athletic League, or Pal Program, is a youth crime prevention program, and its boxing classes are reaching Latin families and building trust among the community in south Dallas.

45 children are enrolled in the boxing program and many of them are Hispanic.

Ten-year-old Joshua Valadez used to get in trouble at school, but attending boxing training four days week has kept him in line.

"He would act bad every day," said his mother, Jessica Galarza, who added she didn't personally know many police officers until the family joined the program.

"This is the best way I know of to fight crime," said Dallas Police Sergeant Victor Renteria.

He also said the location of the boxing program at Turner Recreation Center, off Elam Road, created the new opportunities to reach Hispanic families.

"As a community, a Hispanic community, we love boxing so being here in this neighborhood, where there's a lot of Hispanics, it's easy access for them," Renteria said.

Ninth grader Arazely Galindo said kids at her school always have something bad to say about police.

"They don't like cops because of what they see them do on Facebook," said Galindo.

Her perception is different thanks to her training at the gym as part of the Pal program.

"If you get in trouble, they will help you and if something goes wrong, they're there for you," she said.

"The parents get involved, the kids get involved. They see us as human beings like everybody else.  They learn that police officers are the good people, not the bad people and they don't have to be afraid of us," said Renteria.

A handful of the boxers compete in about 20 tournaments a year.

Many have returned with belts, including Joshua, who's won three.

"It teaches them that they can achieve any goal they put their minds to. Hopefully, they'll become the future lawyers, doctors and police officers, hopefully police officers," said Renteria.

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