CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — The Central Falls Police Department is taking a unique approach to community policing, and shaping local teens’ futures in the process.
Their efforts have gained international attention. In October, the department received the Leadership in Community Policing Award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Leading Ladies Initiative is a big reason the department earned the recognition. Col. Anthony Roberson told 12 News the response to the program has been “overwhelming.”
The initiative, run by the police department, pairs teenage girls with a group of mentors. Participants have gotten to go shopping for professional clothing, get their headshots taken, and foster connections.
The mentors are successful women who come from different backgrounds and work in a variety of fields. They include businesswomen, police officers, health care professionals and a judge.
“Every mentor was more than willing, and I couldn’t applaud them any more,” Roberson said.
One of those mentors is Angela Bannerman Ankoma, the Rhode Island Foundation’s vice president of equity affairs. She said the program has been inspiring.
“I was supported by many people in my community, whether it be teachers, mentors, and so for me, being able to be that support for someone else, it is incredibly uplifting,” Bannerman Ankoma explained.
“We were once 14-, 15- and 16-year-old girls and had the same aspirations, same curiosities and the same uncertainties as well too,” she added.
One of the program’s goals is to show the teens what they can achieve.
“I always say that you can’t be what you can’t see,” Bannerman Ankoma said. “So it’s really important for us to be in front of these women, to be able to have these opportunities for us to engage and to network. It’s an opportunity that I didn’t have when I was younger.”
It’s an initiative that has room to grow. Bannerman Ankoma said she believes “it’s a model that’s worth thinking about replicating across the country and lifting up.”