The Spirit of Blue Foundation announced today that it has awarded a Safety Training Grant to the Gainesville (Fla.) Police Department to obtain valuable police/youth dialogue training. The focus of this training is building understanding and cooperation between the city's minority youth and the 302 police officers who serve the Gainesville community. The River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, also based in Gainesville, will be conducting the training sessions and will work with the GPD to develop a comprehensive curriculum allowing the training program to be replicated by law enforcement agencies in communities all across the country.

"When we sit down in a secure environment and have open dialogue, it allows us all to learn more about each other and see why each other operates in a certain way," said Chief Tony Jones of the Gainesville Police Department, who frequently reminds his officers and the public that the police cannot arrest their way out of crime. "We saw an issue with how minority youth were contacted and arrested. Instead of sitting back and ignoring the issue, we decided not only to talk about it, but to do something about it. This grant will allow us to do even more. While you may not see a piece of equipment purchased with these funds, you'll see a tangible return – a city with a great relationship with all of its community."

The $6,375 grant was funded primarily through a generous donation from The Dunkin' Donuts & Baskin-Robbins Community Foundation who partners with organizations to support public safety officers, in addition to a number of other initiatives to build safer communities. The Harbour Family Trust, a private fund formed in memory of late Detroit automotive industry veteran James Harbour, also contributed to the funding of the grant.

"There is a lot of value in granting safety equipment to law enforcement officers, which is what we typically do," stated Ryan T. Smith, Executive Director of the Spirit of Blue Foundation. "But we are excited to enable this Police/Youth Dialogue training program because it is inherently proactive, building a sense of emotional intelligence between these two groups who interact on a daily basis. If we can prevent conflict from occurring in those interactions then we have helped to create a safer environment from the outset."

Statistics released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund showed 126 law enforcement officers lost their lives in the line of duty in 2014, an increase of 24% from the previous year. 50 of those fatalities were firearm related, a 56% increase. The reality of these statistics, and the increasing number of underfunded law enforcement agencies across the country, fuel the Spirit of Blue safety grant initiative.

The Spirit of Blue Foundation actively encourages the public at large to honor and appreciate law enforcement officers who serve to protect our communities. By supporting the Spirit of Blue Foundation, the public can make an impact in the lives of law enforcement officers every day. To learn more about the Spirit of Blue, or make a donation, visit www.spiritofblue.com.

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