The St. Paul police continue to invest in programs and events to strengthen officers’ relationships with young people. This Saturday is no exception, with the department hosting its second East & West African Youth Summit.

The East & West African Youth Summit will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wilder Center, 451 Lexington Pkwy. N. The event is free and will include lunch and a scheduled prayer time.

The summit will offer young adults employment and programming opportunities and a chance to talk with recruiters from different agencies. Discussions about Internet safety and youth health also will be held.

Some of the organizations and agencies that plan to attend include Right Track, Ramsey County Public Health, and Metro Transit.

While the summit is designed to provide young people with opportunities, its main focus is to build trust between the police department and the East and West African communities, said St. Paul Assistant Police Chief Todd Axtell.

“Our biggest take away is that [the young people] now have a new relationship with a police officer,” Axtell said.

“They know more of our officers and our officers know more of our youth … The better we know each other, the more safe our community is.”

Hashi Shafi, executive director of the Somali Action Alliance, agreed that cultivating relationships is important.

“They can see this police department as part of their lives. They don’t have to be scared,” Shafi said of young Somalis.

Shafi said he welcomed the police department’s efforts to build relationships with the city’s immigrant communities. He said other law enforcement could learn from the example set by St. Paul police.

The department has organized several events and programs recently to help build relationships with the East African community, including the East African Junior Police Academy, which showed young people, through hands-on demonstrations, what it takes to become a St. Paul officer.