By Mary Bubala

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new initiative is underway breaking down barriers between Baltimore City police officers and young people in our city.

It began with a pilot program last year that put the two sides into mediation together to peel away the layers of mistrust.

No one can forget the images of the two sides – Baltimore City officers versus young Baltimore residents – during the unrest of April 2015.

“The most important thing we learned through the unrest is we need to repair the relationship between the police and young people,” said Baltimore Councilman Brandon Scott. “There is nothing more important to repair in our city than that relationship.”

That effort is well underway with a new program called “Youth/Police Dialogues,” which brings police officers and the city’s young people together to talk, hash out their differences, and get to know each other personally at community mediation on Greenmount Avenue.

“It’s about seeing past baggy pants, and perceived attitudes and blue uniforms,” said Shantay Guy, executive director of community mediation. “It’s about humanizing themselves to each other.”

At a news conference with city officials Wednesday, it was announced that 500 officers and young people will participate in this training this year.

“The relationships have been corroded from the inside out and the outside in, so one situation at one time,” said volunteer facilitator Erricka Bridgford. “So why not have the hope and belief that we can heal it one conversation at a time.”

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