Bridging the police-youth divide with music

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BOSTON – In the wake of the recent police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, one enterprising musician is using music to bridge the divide between Boston’s law enforcement and the city’s youth.

Shaw Pong Liu, who has spent the last four months embedded with the Boston Police Department as part of Boston’s 2016 Artist-in-Residence program (AIR), started Code Listen, a collaborative music group with the Boston Police department, Teen Empowerment, and other youth organizations.

During the group’s first meeting, according to the Boston Globe, Liu, a violinist and composer with a penchant for baking, asked teens and police officers alike to share things about themselves that others might not know. Her icebreaker questions include “Share a positive experience you’ve had with a police officer” and “What’s something important about you that people can’t tell just by looking at you?”

Later in the three-hour meeting, police officers on the bass and guitar joined teens playing bongos and congas in an improvised jam session that devolved into a rendition of “Lean on Me.” The group is planning to play this Tuesday night at Town Field Park on National Night Out, followed by a Wednesday performance at the Center for Teen Empowerment’s Community-Police Summit.

William Evans, the Boston Police Commissioner, praised Liu’s work for allowing police officers to “reach out to people we may not be able otherwise to reach.” Jeremiah Benton, a member of the force for 28 years who now contributes his skills as a tyro bassist, says he has “no expectations, just hope.”