Tampa police team up with at-risk kids

Local law enforcement has launched a program to get through to local youth at an early age.

Tampa police and troubled teens are teaming up to fight hunger and stereotypes at the same time. The unlikely partners spent the last couple of days together as part of a new program called 'Breaking Barriers'.  
 
It's an uncommon partnership built on common ground.
 
"We both started wearing glasses when we were 7," said 11-year-old Michael.
 
Tampa officer Bryan Perry echoed that.
 
"We said it was lucky 7," he said. "That was our little thing, our lucky 7."
 
They met Monday, and now Michael knows Officer Perry as his friend, Bryan.
 
"It's nice because some people think that they're there to arrest you and stuff, but they're just like us."
 
While the two worked in tandem, packaging 4000 meals that will be sent to food pantries across the Bay area, Michael opened up to Bryan.
 
"He does have a father in his life that he gets with on the weekends and I had the same situation with my dad - I'd see him on the weekends and we'd do things," Perry said.
 
Officer Perry says it's these kinds of moments, with just a dozen or so kids, that can change a community.
 
"It's always good for the police to get to know kids in their neighborhoods, kids in their zones. Those are the ones that we really need to touch because those are the ones that are going to be taking over."
 
Michael gets it.
 
"I think it's good because it's teaching me not to make bad choices or think about doing any bad choices."
 
This is a friendship that both Michael and Bryan intend to keep.
 
"I don't want to just get to know Mike and then just forget about him, I want to spend some time with him so we will get together."
 
The kids that took part in the program are all part of AMI kids, a national nonprofit organization that pushes troubled boys and girls in a new direction toward a brighter future.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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