The Boston Police Department is looking for 25 officers to volunteer as mentors for at least a year under a new initiative designed to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and youth in the city.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the country’s oldest mentorship program, has partnered with police departments around the country to launch Bigs in Blue, an initiative to connect youth with police officers.
“Our goal is that when young people see police in their neighborhoods they won’t be afraid and they will also have a caring, trusting adult that they can sit and talk to,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday at a press conference to announce the program.
The program is part of Walsh’s goal of having 10 percent of youth participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters be paired with city employees as mentors.
Last month, officers in police departments in Barnstable, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Miami joined Bigs in Blue.
“We need to create more bridges, more understanding between law enforcement and the communities that they’re serving,” said Wendy Foster, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay.
Each participating officer must spend four to eight hours a month with their mentee, also known as a “Little.” Boston Police Officer Jeff Lopes, who became a Big Brother in 2015, encouraged his fellow officers to volunteer.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “I think police officers will enjoy it.”
Growing up in Dorchester, Lopes said he saw many of his friends “fall into the wrong path.” He said he wants to prevent young people from making the same mistakes his friends did. “It’s what motivated me to be a Big Brother, to be a police officer,” he said.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said his officers often come across youth who could use a mentor.
“We’ve gone on numerous peace walks and we see kids who don’t have a lot and could be on a beach, or going out to eat, and having that relationship and building that bond,” said Evans, who said he relied on his four older brothers after his parents died. “They pointed me in the right direction. There’s a lot of kids very much like me out there.”