Joined by Hartford's fire and police chiefs, education leaders, members of the city council and students, Mayor Pedro Segarra announced the launch of a new program aimed at recruiting emergency responders who live in the city.
"What we have learned is that as young people are exposed to public safety careers at a young age, they seem to develop more of an appreciation and an understanding of what these departments are meant to do," the mayor said during a press conference Tuesday.
The Public Safety Initiative has been in effect for about a year at some public schools in Hartford, but the mayor wants the city council to pass an ordinance authorizing it further.
Students have already participated in several aspects of the program.
The initiative includes a five-week summer program for 45 high school students, community outreach and a post-secondary program for students between the ages of 18 and 21 who are interested in law enforcement careers to take between academic semesters.
Jose Torres is a Hartford student who's already been involved with the early iteration of the program. He said he see a future in public safety, despite some of what he was told as a child about interacting with police.
"When I was growing up, I always heard that police officers aren't any good, all they want to do is lock people up, because of where I was living and the people I used to hang around with, but I noticed that they really try and they work their butts off and everything," he said.
Torres now says he can be an example for his family and members of his community by joining the ranks of first responders.
"I grew up around a lot of drugs and stuff like that and I always wanted to make a change for me, my family and everyone around me," Torres said.
Hartford's Chief of Police James Rovella said the city has everything to gain by having more people protecting the community with concrete and deep ties to the neighborhoods where they're working.
Rovella said the success of the program will be based on how the city markets the potential to students.
"There’s a negative pipeline where we discourage arrests from school to jail and there’s the positive pipeline that we’re building that these kids want to become productive members of their community by serving in the police and fire and other public safety positions," Rovella said.
The Public Safety Committee of the Hartford City Council has sent an ordinance establishing the Public Safety Initiative to the full city council. A public hearing on the measure is scheduled for May 18.