MIDAS, Detroit Police Athletic League to assess youth programs

Source: Office of Research

Detroit PAL playing field at the former Detroit Tigers site.

The Michigan Institute for Data Science at the University of Michigan is working with the Detroit Police Athletic League to analyze survey data to assess the impact of PAL programs on participants and their families.


More than 15,000 youth from over 90 cities in Michigan participate in PAL programs each year. Over 90% of the participants are African-American or Latino, and more than 70% live in Detroit. TEAM UP, a recent collaboration between PAL and the Detroit Police Department, aims to improve the relationship between police officers, youth and the community through sports and officer-facilitated programs.

“Detroit PAL was started in 1969 to establish stronger relationships with the youth and the community of Detroit,” said Fred Hunter, director of PAL program administration. “As we do this work, through our programs and partnerships, it is vital to step back and evaluate how our programs are received and what impact our programs are making.”

PAL has built a survey database since 2013, with 10,000 surveys from youth participants, their families and their coaches. Through the analysis of survey data, PAL seeks to answer three questions:

  • Have PAL programs helped participants build transferable life skills? These include Goal-Setting, Resiliency, Embracing a Healthy Lifestyle (mentally and physically), Accountability, and Teamwork?
  • Have PAL programs improved the image of the police and the relationship between police officers and the community?
  • To better evaluate PAL’s work, how can the surveys be improved?“The Scientific and Technical Core within the Population Dynamics and Health Program, specializes in supporting clients like PAL in taking data they have and helping them turn that data into actionable information, via statistical analysis, data visualization, and interpretation of results,” said Brady West, a research associate professor at the U-M Survey Research Center and faculty affiliate member at MIDAS, who is leading the project to carry out the survey data cleaning and analysis.

    “So far, we have helped PAL analyze and interpret results from TEAM UP, which has demonstrated evidence of improved positive attitudes toward police among participants,” said Paul Schulz, a senior research area specialist at the Survey Research Center who is working alongside West on the project. “Our hope is that Fred can use these results to promote and demonstrate the efficacy of this program to current and future stakeholders including participants, funders, and the community at large.”

    The study gives Detroit PAL the expertise needed to assess and improve measurement tools and a research-based confirmation of a statistically significant result from their work.

    “We feel more informed, and we can make improvements based on the perspective and expertise from the Scientific and Technical Core. The partnership with MIDAS is truly helping our community,” Hunter said.

    A generous donation from Mark and Eileen Petroff made this project possible. “Being an employer located in Detroit, I am so excited to see the outcome of this work,” said Mark Petroff, a U-M alumnus and president and CEO of OneMagnify.

Back to News + Stories