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By WSB  Community 

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Police Foundation is working to reduce the number of minors in the criminal justice system through a new program aimed at improving police relationships with local teens.

“We don’t want the kids’ first contact with the officers in the back of a police car,” program manager Aaron Nicholson said. “We want their first contact to be kind of a nurturing or relationship-building experience.”

The Atlanta Police Foundation’s AT-PROMISE is a partnership with the Atlanta Police Department and local nonprofits. Over the course of 4 months, teenagers and APD officers are getting to know one  another through planned workshops and community service projects.

The initial mentoring program is based at the APD mounted patrol unit in Grant Park. High school senior, Keavonte Lindsey is learning how to take care of horses from his mentor, who works for the unit.

“I can’t judge my mentor just how he looks,” Lindsey said. “I’ve got to get to know his personality, his character.”

Lindsey’s mentor, Mike England, has been with the mounted patrol unit for nine years. England said being a part of the program is a win-win.

“If we know what each other is doing, each other’s needs, we can do a better job.” England said.

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The APF AT-PROMISE program manager, Aaron Nicholson, said having young people work with mounted patrol officers exposes them to different sides of the police department, which they may someday choose to enter themselves.

“(They learn about) training the horses, grooming for these horses. We wanted the kids to experience that along with the officers to get a sense of responsibility,” Nicholson said.

The Atlanta Police Foundation said its goal is to have similar programs in each of the city’s six police zones.