MDPD Youth Dialogues

Location:  Miami-Dade County
Faculty: Antoine Hardy, Gabriela Portela and Joann Brown
Department of Communication
Project Date: 2016

The relationship between police officers and youth is often fraught with tension. As violent police encounters played out more regularly in the last few years on media across the country, the mistrust and miscommunication between the groups seemed to grow. The Police-Youth Community Dialogues Program was initiated to promote a shared understanding of the community’s issues between Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) officers and area youth. The program was built on the belief that effective policing and maintaining of public safety requires community members to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods.

As a result, the purpose of this crime prevention training program was to raise awareness of the issues and to build trust between the police and community members. Although MDPD has a long history of relationship-building through crime prevention programs and community policing efforts, the additional training created yet another way to create a bond between the groups and strengthen their connection. The dialogues took place in a relaxed, neutral setting, in four distinct phases:

Phase 1 – Orientation session, cultural awareness and sensitivity training
Phase 2 – Who are we? Finding common ground, establishing rapport and identifying key issues
Phase 3 – Contemporary issues on the beat
Phase 4 – Diagnosing the problem and finding solutions

The positive outcomes of the program have led to continued dialogues and meetings in other communities.


Little Havana Community Meetings

Location: Little Havana, Miami, FL
Faculty: Mark Marine, CARTA and Ralph Rosado, Rosado and Associates
Project Date: 2017

Affordable housing for seniors and the disabled is a nationwide problem, and Miami is no exception. Plans are in the works to redevelop the Little Havana Senior Campus. The project includes multiple buildings, some constructed in the 1970s that need complete renovation or rebuilding. FIU By Design was selected to host a series of community events for the proposed development of the Little Havana Senior Campus. The job required coordination of a series of meetings among Resident Council Governing Boards, the City of Miami Police Department, Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development, the Related Group, community members and key stakeholders from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. These meetings were divided into four ‘presentation sessions’ that covered specific topics for the proposed redevelopment, one ‘pen-to-paper’ charrette, and one wrap-up session.

To conduct the project, students and faculty worked directly with all stakeholders to gather the community’s input on key aspects of the project including: housing needs, exterior space requirements, public safety, community services, economic development, historic preservation and art in public spaces. These sessions focused on gathering information about the types of services and quality of life the community desires, as well as polling them about possible new usage, such as mixed-income or mixed-age housing.

The pen-to-paper session included a Visual Preference Survey, in which residents and community members were guided to Grouping Stations to indicate their likes and dislikes. This allowed stakeholders to build consensus about amenities and ideas for the proposed project. The sessions concluded with community members and residents sketching and labeling their desires on the Campus site plan ― an effort which was guided by FIU facilitators.


Miami-Dade County Public Schools: CCC:YEP Collaboration

Location: Miami-Dade County
Faculty: Raquel Perez and Gabriella Portela
Communication for Student Success

This interactive service-learning program provides participants with relevant, innovative academic, and cultural experiences. Utilizing the current framework of the Creating Community Change: Youth Engagement Program, this needs based initiative focuses on developing students’ life skills through the lens of communication, conflict management and collaboration by providing opportunities for meaningful dialogues with community leaders from various industries. This program will allow students’ to approach learning holistically while meeting the student achievement objective of career and college readiness.


Policing Through Effective Communication

Faculty: Raquel Perez and Joann Brown
MDPD Police Academy

In response to the trends of growing distrust between law enforcement and the community, local police departments proactively reached out to FIU’s Department of Communication, in the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, to create programs that facilitate more effective communication between officers and the South Florida community. The goal is to decrease any preventable loss of lives at the hands of police.

The eight-hour training takes place at the City of Miami Police Academy. It teaches active listening techniques, how to speak concisely and the value of showing respect and courtesy—all directly aligned with fundamental policing procedures as outlined in the state’s law enforcement training handbook.

Communication instructor Raquel Perez teaches officers to de-escalate conflict to defuse potentially dangerous situations.

“You’re dealing with a very heightened time in our society where people who may never even have had an encounter with law enforcement, on their first encounter are already anticipating a negative reaction,” Perez said. “So that’s why it’s so important with that de-escalation component that police officers are mindful of their verbal and nonverbal reactions, that they’re mindful of how that empathetic conversation can change the dynamic of an interaction.”


Padres Activos Research Project

Faculty: Maria Elena Villar
Project Date: Ongoing

Padres Activos is an on-going research project by our Department of Communication and United Way dedicated to teaching Hispanic parents about health and wellness. The goal for this research project is to determine whether there is a notable difference between parents who attend the classes taught by our United Way instructor, Frances Lozada, versus parents who only use the resources at home. With the help from United Way’s learning centers, Lozada and FIU research assistant, Vanessa Sanchez, gather with parents for Padres Activos sessions and discuss nutrition, exercise and mental health. In addition to the lessons, our program consists of learning with hands-on activities and alongside their respective child. Moreover, we provide each parent with materials to support them in living a healthier life.