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SAN DIEGO –  Leaders of an innovative new county funded program are working to prevent police and community clashes similar to outbreaks in Ferguson, Missouri.

The program “Art of Inclusive Communication,” mediated by the National Conflict Resolution Center and funded by San Diego County’s Live Well San Diego program, brought 40 Lincoln High students, their families, San Diego police, county officials and community leaders together to find some common ground.

Lincoln High student Lizabeth Contreras has always had what she calls a “fear” for law enforcement.

“It’s always been them versus them,” said Contreras. “Living in this community, we have friends who always lose a parent because they’re going to jail.”

The 16-year-old said her thoughts and impressions about police officers have since changed.

“Now, thanks to this training I see a whole different perspective in them,” she said. “They’re just trying to do a job and make our community a better place, and a more safe place.”

 San Diego police Captain Jorge Duran heads Southeastern Division and said the program is a proactive way to prevent trust issues and fear between law enforcement and citizens.

“It brings officers into a classroom, without their uniforms to meet with the community members.  In a non confrontational way,” said Duran.  “We have a lot of issues here with the community. There’s distrust with stuff going on nationally.”

Now that the training is done, Duran hopes to see continued trust and positive relations between citizens and the men and women that serve and protect them.

The four classes were part of a pilot program. County officials said it is now looking at expanding the program to other San Diego communities.