DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police Department launched its new Before the Blue and Beyond the Badge program for its latest recruits. The goal of the program is to help them build relationships and learn about the community before they start patrolling.

“Before we graduate them and send them to their respective districts, give them an opportunity to really see various cultures and communities, really see through those lenses,” Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said. “I think it’s important they have that exposure, have that experience before we expect them to patrol in those communities.”

On Monday, 56 police recruits started the orientation. It’s the largest recruiting class since 1986 and the first class to go through this program.

During the week-long orientation program, recruits will hear from members of the Denver community, speak with residents and meet with people transitioning from various levels of incarceration. The hope is to expose new recruits to the experiences, concerns and expectations of people in the community.

“They’ll have that opportunity to see through a different lens and have a different understanding of why there may be distrust for law enforcement and see the cultural challenges that exist in communities across the city,” Thomas said.

Police recruits visit the Far East Center

On Monday, the recruits visited the Far East Center, which has a close relationship with Denver Police.

“We actually work together in many ways to help clean up the community,” said Mimi Luong, whose family built the plaza back in 1987. “I feel like the partnerships with DPD and letting these new recruits know about this area would benefit letting them know a little bit more about the small businesses around here and the business owners.”

Luong now owns Truong An Gifts in the Far East Center and said working alongside police is important for that area.

“This area needs that protection. It also needs that safety net,” Luong said. “It does help make us feel safer. It does help build a trust with each other when we need them.”

The orientation also includes presentations and partnerships with city council members, Together Colorado, Denver Dream Center and Mi Casa Resource Center.