Lakeland, FL (WFLA) – The annual Gentleman’s Institute in Polk County has a new element this year. Besides the typical lessons of phone etiquette, table manners, and learning to offer and accept an apology, Organizer Stacey Campbell- Domineck felt it was time to bring police officers in the mix.
“There are perceptions out there whether they’re negative positive right or wrong they’re there,” Campbell-Domineck said. Due mostly in part to police-related incidents that have gained headlines throughout the past year, Campbell-Domineck thinks it’s crucial for the young men to get face-to-face with police and talk about what can sometimes cause them to fear the uniform.
The week-long institute is made up of about 25 young men from Polk County who are entering 5th-12 grades. Officers shared with them insight of on-the-job situations, and how much respect and kindness mean to them when they approach a citizen.
“As long as you know where you’re supposed to be there is no need to be afraid,” an officer said. After dialogue led mostly by the adults, the students weighed in on what can trigger resistance for them when dealing with cops.
“Certain individuals that probably have a bad rap – you become very paranoid in that situation,” one said. One young man shared how an officer’s actions toward his family 15 years ago affect him still today.
And another told about the struggle of fighting temptations that surround them. “Also stuff happening in modern culture like rap music- it basically teaches people to start fearing the police or hiding things from the police,” 16-year-old Austin Rolette said.