Bridging the Gap: Kids and Cops

Join us December 19, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. EDT as we welcome Paul Pazen, Chief of Police for the Denver Police Department, and Gianina Irlando, Community Relations Ombudsman for the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor to our last event in the 2018 NACOLE webinar series.

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There is a disconnect between citizens and law enforcement officers in many cities across the United States.  In no one group is this disconnect more pronounced than among our youth. Research shows that, in some minority communities, entire generations of young people have grown up not trusting the police.  This lack of trust means that youth are often scared of and unwilling to cooperate with police, causing many police contacts, however minor, to escalate into confrontations or arrests due to misunderstandings and fear between young people and police officers.      

This fear and lack of trust has played out locally in Denver. The Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) has seen concerns from Denver youth and their family members about minor contacts with police that escalated unnecessarily.  The Bridging the Gap Program seeks to proactively improve relationships between youth and law enforcement in Denver by educating youth on their rights and responsibilities when in contact with law enforcement, and educating officers on key aspects of adolescent development and de-escalation techniques when contacting youth.    

With start-up funds from a Colorado Justice Assistance Grant, the OIM has developed and tested a curriculum that is now being used in forums with youth and law enforcement in Denver.  Building upon national best practices, the project features:

  • Youth and Police Engagement: Through a partnership with the Denver Police Department, the OIM conducts five hour forums which allow for youth and police officers to share their experiences and learn together with the help of community facilitators.
  • Education on Adolescent Development and Emotional Intelligence: Using an evidence-based curriculum from Connecticut Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, police officers receive a full day of training on adolescent development and de-escalation techniques with youth as part of Effective Police Interactions with Youth, which is taught by trainers in the Denver Police Department and focuses on how adolescents think and how that shapes the way they act when approached by the police.
  • A Sustainable Model Rooted in the Community: With strong community partnerships, the program has a wide reach throughout diverse communities in Denver, and employs a “train-the-trainer” approach that is intended to cultivate a team of experts in the community and in law enforcement who can sustain the program over time. 
  • A Testable, Replicable Model: Working with a team of evaluation advisors ensures that program outcomes will be testable in the long-term, creating a model that can be evaluated and eventually adapted by other jurisdictions that have taken on the charge of improving relationships between their youth and police.

Presenters will discuss the issues surrounding youth and law enforcement, the successful program initiated by the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor, and how they can establish it in their own community. 


Chief Paul Pazen

Chief of Police Paul Pazen

On Monday, July 9, 2018, Paul M. Pazen was sworn in as the 70th Chief of Police for the Denver Police Department. Chief Pazen began serving the Denver community as a police officer in 1995 and his experience includes 12 years of command level experience in several areas of police operations. For the six years prior to his appointment to Chief of Police, Chief Pazen was the Commander of District One, during which he led an ambitious effort to enhance police services, create an environment of team building, collaboration, and fostering innovative crime prevention strategies, while instituting transparency and accountability, and empowering residents and sustainable community/police relations. 

Chief Pazen is a proud Denver native and graduate of Denver’s North High School, after which he served with the United States Marine Corps and is a Gulf War Veteran. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Colorado State University-Global and graduated with magna cum laude honors. Chief Pazen continues building his skills through training and education including the Senior Management Institute for Police, Police Executive Forum at Boston University, Federal Bureau of Investigation-National Academy (FBINA), West Point Military Academy-Leadership in Police Organizations Instructor, Criminal Justice Certificate from University of Virginia, and 2018 Fellow at University of Denver, Latino Leadership Institute.

Chief Pazen has received various high-level department awards and commendations for managing critical incidents, implementing strategic planning and full-scale preparedness exercises, execution and evaluation. Commendations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Leadership Award, Superior Tactics and Response Award, Police Merit and Department Service Award.

Gianina Irlando

Gianina IrlandoGia Irlando is the Community Relations Ombudsman for the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM). She is responsible for outreach to Denver residents, elected officials, community leaders, and organizations. Hearing the community call for better relations between youth and law enforcement, she spearheaded the creation of the Youth Outreach Project, Bridging the Gap: Kids and Cops. She secured federal grant funding, oversaw the development of the curriculum and convened an expert advisory committee to guide the process. In addition, the project received federal funding for an outcome evaluation which was completed in early 2018. This evaluation demonstrated the effectiveness of the project eness to thwart the flow of youth into the juvenile justice system by training officers on disproportionate minority contact and adolescent development and training youth on their rights and responsibilities when in contact with law enforcement.

Gia is a 2014 fellow of the National Hispana Leadership Institute and a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2017, Gia received one of Denver’s My Brother’s Keeper Awards from Mayor Michael Hancock for her service to youth of color in Denver.  She recently served as the Co-Chair of the Colorado Latino Forum and has served on various community boards.

Gia attended the University of California, Berkeley and California State University, Hayward, focusing on politics, communications and ethnic studies. From a young age, she marched on picket lines for the United Farmworker movement and participated in political campaigns as the child of union organizers. Gia has worked for numerous national non-profits, labor organizations and for many years increasing political representation for people of color and in elected office throughout the Southwest. In Colorado, she seated the youngest Latino on the Denver City Council and the youngest Latina and the first Latina Speaker of the House in the Colorado State House of Representatives. Gia has had the great opportunity to work for state legislators, the City and County of Denver and Denver Public Schools as a community engagement specialist and continues to consult on political and issue campaigns important to low-income communities of color.

December 19, 2018 at 1:00pm - 2pm
Cameron McEllhiney · · 3178217133