In recent months, several highly publicized cases of police brutality and demonstrations of excessive force have exposed a corrosive dynamic between law enforcement agencies and the American public. More than ever before, it is imperative that police departments work to improve relations with the communities they serve.
With the goal of fostering healthy relations between urban youth and the police in the aftermath of the 1992 Rodney King riots, the state of California addressed similar questions by debuting the Los Angeles Police Academy Magnet School Program (PAMS)—a specialized education delivery model for high school curriculum developed for at-risk youths.
The program introduces an original education model allowing students to explore a career in law enforcement through participation in a criminal justice-focused curriculum. Included in this curriculum are the mechanics of the justice system, technology and policing, and the various standards of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The first two Los Angeles Police Academy Magnet Programs opened in 1996, and in 1998 the program expanded to include three more schools. Reseda High School was chosen to operate one of the Magnet School Program in 1998 and has become a defining success story for the initiative: graduation rates have not dipped below 98% since 2005, and 100% of every graduating class goes on to either college or the military.
Going forward, the Los Angeles Magnet Programs intend to expand the initiative to include an even broader variety of features, including a cutting-edge forensic science lab for student use and an annual senior trip to Washington D.C. to participate in “National Police Week”. As the program expands, it will be the academic core of the model that drives its success, showing how alleviating tension between law enforcement and the community is made easier when it is begun in the classroom.