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“I always wanted to help people:” See what it’s like to be a Milwaukee Police Ambassador

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MILWAUKEE -- For the first time, Milwaukee police officers take a select group of young people and work with them every day, showing them what it means to be cop.

19-year-old Kalin Welch reports to MPD's District 5. He's following up with families of missing persons. Welch and his partner train at the Police Academy, help with community outreach events, and even learn about being a dispatcher.

They were sworn in as Police Ambassadors in March --and Welch says he's become a different person.

"More of a hard worker, more of a go-getter, and I get that from my mentors and the people around District 5," said Welch.

The Ambassador Program aims to provide meaningful work experience to young adults who are interested in pursuing careers or continuing their education in public safety or criminal justice. The idea: Strengthen the relationship between citizens and police -- especially among Milwaukee's youth.

Welch's mentor, Officer Edward Ciano, says he sees it working.

"They look at cops a different way now," said Officer Ciano.

The ambassadors also act as a voice for their neighborhoods — helping the Milwaukee Police Department understand what is working, and what isn’t.

"They teach us what the youth of their age, how they perceive the police," said Ciano.

In some cases, the ambassadors make it easier to get tips after a crime.

"The citizens in that neighborhood will engage in a conversation with them and break the ice, whereas if I had gone, just as an officer, I may not have gotten a response," said Ciano.

Eventually the Police Ambassadors are going to be able to go out on ride-alongs -- watching officers responding to calls.

Learning the ins and outs of being an officer will help Welch achieve his dream of one day being police chief.

"I always wanted to help people. I wanted to give back to my community. I just want to do something that is great," said Welch.

The 18-25 year olds recruited for the program will work 20 hours per week with a mentor in a location that meets their interests for one year. Ambassadors will engage with Police Aids and will receive four hours of education each week at the Milwaukee Police Academy. This is part of Milwaukee's Transitional Jobs Program, which helps people get jobs in city departments.