ASHEVILLE, N.C. – United States Attorney Andrew Murray announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina partnered with the Asheville Police Department (APD) and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) to conduct the Law Enforcement Guiding Adolescent Lives (L.E.G.A.L.) training program in Asheville. L.E.G.A.L. is a youth-oriented community outreach initiative, designed to foster positive interactions between young people and members of the law enforcement community.
The one-day program was held earlier today in Asheville, at the Buncombe County Training Center. Volunteer APD officers and BCSO deputies, and 18 young men selected from the Asheville-based youth development program My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT), participated in today’s training.
The APD and the BCSO worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to implement the program and to develop a curriculum that was informative, meaningful and fun for the participants.
“This program is extremely valuable for the young people and the volunteer law enforcement officers who participated in today’s training. The goal of this outreach effort is to provide a scenario for positive interactions between law enforcement officers and our youth, to foster positive relationships, and to promote mutual respect toward one another through education,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “This experience can be eye-opening for all participants, leading to more effective, and ultimately safer, interactions between law enforcement officers and young people within our communities.”
“My Daddy Taught Me That is a program designed to uplift and support the development and education of youth and young males,” said MDTMT Founder Keynon Lake. “Our mission is to foster and empower boys to become healthy men, and to develop into the leaders of tomorrow. This is facilitated through education, hands-on activities, and participation in innovative and unique events, like L.E.G.A.L. Today’s training will have a positive and long-lasting effect on all the young men who participated.”
The four-hour program began with youth participants receiving legal and practical skills orientation. During this session, participants received basic legal background information from an Assistant United States Attorney, on searches related to traffic stops, public area encounters, and home encounters. Participants also received practical instruction on their rights and on interacting with law enforcement in a safe and positive manner.
Following the legal orientation, participants had an opportunity to utilize their newly-acquired skills by engaging with law enforcement officers in simulated police interactions. After each simulated interaction, participants and law enforcement officers engaged in role-reversals, designed to foster a better understanding of each group’s standpoint, and to offer an opportunity to share each other’s perspective. Following the simulated encounters, participants engaged in free dialogue with law enforcement volunteers during a roundtable luncheon.
In his opening remarks to the group, U.S. Attorney thanked everyone for participating in the training, and noted that L.E.G.A.L. is an example of the outreach component of the Western District’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) crime reduction program, which was reinvigorated by the Justice Department last year.
“Our overarching goal is to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. To achieve that, we must develop and implement youth outreach programs throughout the Western District of North Carolina that enhance youth development and promote positive interactions between law enforcement and young people in the community.”
U.S. Attorney Murray also thanked Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper, Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan, and Keynon Lake for their support of the L.E.G.A.L. program and commended each for doing their part to keep our communities and help all our youth thrive.
MDTMT is a youth development program designed to support young males, ages 12 to 19, through advocacy, education, and mentoring. For more information on MDTMT, please visit http://mydaddytaughtmethat.org.