MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Miami Dolphins teamed up with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project Tuesday to host a conference designed to promote positive interaction between youth and law enforcement.
The conference, which made Hard Rock Stadium look more like a classroom, featured more than 600 high school students and law enforcement from jurisdictions throughout South Florida.
“We’re looking for you guys to ask some real questions,” North Miami Police Department Major Tim Belcher told the group. “And I’m telling officers to give you real answers back so you can understand what that officer goes through. And we want to know what you’re going through as a young man.”
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson led the program, which included a panel discussion with police officers and Dolphins players who shared ideas on how to break some of that tension.
“I think the most rewarding part when we do this is to see the tension relax between the police officers and our young men. Because there is tension,” Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said. “In these workshops, the police and youth reverse roles to learn each other’s responsibilities, and how to respect each other and cut that tension. To have the Dolphins, our hometown team, involved as well, and have them teaching a lesson to the children is just phenomenal.”
Miami Gardens Police Department Assistant Chief JD Patterson agrees.
“If we empathize with each other and realize that we’re already in a tension filled situation and we kind of come to it with straight forward conversation, it brings it down a little bit.”
There were dozens of criminal justice and law enforcement agencies on hand for the day but that’s not all.
Several current and former members of the Miami Dolphins, including Jake Brendel, Jermon Bushrod, Troy Drayton, Ja’Wuan James, O.J. McDuffie, Nat Moore, Twan Russell and Kenny Stills took part as well.
“My mom used to always tell me you’ve got a window of opportunity and it’s this big right now. As you get older and older that window starts to get smaller,” explained Ja’Wuan James.
Making the most of his opportunity is Kenny Stills who has been kneeling during the national anthem to protest issues like police violence against African Americans. He took part not only to bridge the disconnect between the two communities, he was here to bridge the generational gap.
“You think back at being a teenager, you think you know everything, and you don’t want to listen to anybody. So I just try to tell them as much as I can hey people that are older than you they have more experience than you. They have that life experience,” said Stills.
Rather than just talk about those experiences, they recreated them. Using group workshops to break down real life scenarios, like how to respond when being pulled over.
The goal of this event was twofold. Get the two sides to respect each other and have the student pass along the overall message to friends who were not in attendance.
“I want to tell them we need to view police officers as humans and not people that wear a uniform. And need to know that they have wives, husbands and kids and we need to know to respect them,” said Darius Avant.
The sponsorship of the conference is part of a yearly fund for advocacy and social justice programs created by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross and Miami Dolphins players.
During the conference, the group also took a moment to honor law enforcement and first responders for the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.