SAN ANTONIO – A former San Antonio police officer is working with a local nonprofit to help connect youths with police in a positive environment.
Troy Smith, the creator of the Walk a Mile in My Shoes program, is proud of the impact his one-day training event has on those who attend. On Tuesday, about 400 community members, primarily teens, participated in a bowling event with roughly 70 police officers at Astro Super Bowl.
“Both sides have gotten so much stress and been under so much pressure that it’s just very hard for anybody to trust anybody,” Smith said. “‘I don’t trust the police.’ And the police are like, ‘The community hates us.’ And then we do something like this, and both sides have fun, and they get to see each other having a good time.”
Smith partners with local groups such as SA Rising Stars and the police union to implement the program. The police union presented SA Rising Stars INC with a $5,000 check to help support more community events like this.
Smith says the goal is to reach youths in communities where police interaction is often negative. But it’s also changing the minds of adults who may have also had negative interactions.
Diann Ross, a community member, is honest when she says, “I really don’t like police.” But she said the event was an eye-opener for her. Seeing and talking with officers and hearing about the barriers they face changed her mind.
“What I’ve been doing is saying a personal thank you because we will give them the head roll, but we will not say and acknowledge when someone’s doing something positive. Right? There’s some good ones, so thank you,” she said.
Smith said this is the first of many youth events planned for the summer. He’s advocating for the city to fund a four-year pilot program to continue these community-bridging events.