GENEVA — In what is being called another step toward healing the community, local police will meet Monday with young adults and coaches in the Geneva area for an open conversation on law enforcement, race, and current events.
The event is being organized by Back the Blue, a program of the Ontario County Police Benevolent Association. Donna Schaertl, the organization’s event coordinator, said the forum is by invitation only and the location is not being disclosed largely due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings.
“I am looking forward to working together to start to heal our community,” Schaertl said. “These young adults are our future and the ones we need to connect with, learn from, and show them the person behind the badge is not someone to fear. They just want to help those they encounter in the course of their duties.”
The event will be similar to ones held in Monroe County. Schaertl said members of the Rochester Police Department and Monroe County sheriff’s office will be at the Geneva event to discuss their experiences.
At least two members of the Geneva Police Department and Ontario County sheriff’s office are expected to attend. Sheriff Kevin Henderson will be among them.
“Law enforcement officers interact with youth in a variety of challenging situations and settings. Having police-youth conversations that serve to build trust and understanding allows teens and police to speak about their experiences,” Henderson said. “These conversations provide insight into the other’s point of view, ultimately finding common ground with each other. It is important that our youth see law enforcement officers as someone they can trust and build positive relationships with our youth, who will be our future.”
Geneva Police Chief Mike Passalacqua is out of the office until next week and could not be reached for comment.
Schaertl said as of now about a dozen young adults ranging from 16-22 years old, along with coaches, have volunteered to attend. The event is the first in a series of roundtable discussions in the county to help build relationships and understanding between law enforcement and young people.
People who want to host a similar event in their community can email Schaertl at email@example.com.
“Our goal is to build connections and work together with these young adults who volunteered to attend,” she said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable attending and to respectfully share their thoughts and experiences with each other.”