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Student play helps foster communication between cops and kids

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Some high school students from north Minneapolis have been working with Minneapolis police officers on an unusual partnership. 

The students at PYC Arts and Technology High School put on a play Thursday night based on honest discussions between cops and kids about how the two groups see each other. 

"I learned that the kids have a view of us, of the police, in a much different way that we would figure it to be."

About a dozen students wrote and performed the play in the Capri Theater to a crowd of about a hundred people from the surrounding neighborhood.  

The story follows Minneapolis police officer Jamal Smith, who tries to befriend and mentor a young man named Carlos. Carlos lives with a drug-addicted father. His cousin Aaron has committed a murder, and he asks Carlos for help hiding from the police. 

Carlos refuses to help his cousin, but he also has trouble trusting Officer Smith, who tries to get past that by telling Carlos about himself.   

The students based the play on a series of frank discussions between the kids and two police officers who work on the north side. One of them is Minneapolis Police Lt. Bret Lindback.

"I learned that the kids have a view of us, of the police, in a much different way that we would figure it to be," Lindback said.

Lindback said at first the students thought of him as another officer with a badge, not necessarily an individual person. He said that for the vast majority of them, interaction with police officers normally meant something was wrong.

"It was a little hard for them to see past that," he said. "So once we got to know each other, I think they see me as just another guy."

The officers explained the pressure of making split-second decisions. They described the stress of the job, and how it's hard to switch that off when cops go home. 

Luther Redus, 17, who played Officer Smith in the play, said hearing what officers go through gave him a lot of respect for cops. But he said he still doesn't necessarily trust officers like Lt. Lindback to see him as more than a black kid on the street. 

"Our relationship was built in a controlled environment and I want to see how we would act outside of a controlled environment," Redus said. "You know, true personalities, true reactions, everything; when I see that, that will boost my comfort level."

  But Redus said before the play, he wasn't even open to that possibility.

Click the audio link at the top of this story to hear portions of the students performing the play.