Petition Closed

Today over 1/6 of the American population is under the age of 19 and over 2,000,000 juveniles are arrested annually. Just as teachers, social workers, and doctors must be aware of the special needs of children in their care, police must possess basic developmental competence and awareness of the best practices for working with children and youth in order to better serve our communities.

Letter to
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Melodee Hanes, Acting Administrator
Community Oriented Policing Services, Department of Justice Director Bernard K. Melekian
I support the goal of improving law enforcement's training and skills development at the Academy and in-service for working with the nation's children and youth.

I want each police/youth interaction to be as positive as possible, to ensure that teachable moments are seized, and that lessons are taught to youth effectively.

Today over 1/6 of the American population is under the age of 19 and over 2,000,000 juveniles are arrested annually. Just as teachers, social workers, and doctors must be aware of the special needs of children in their care, police must possess basic developmental competence and awareness of the best practices for working with children and youth.

Instead, two recent studies show that the nation's police academies provide recruits less than 6 hours of training on average in juvenile law, and very few academies spend any time at all focusing on best practices for working with youth.

Federal and state agencies must support local law enforcement in recognizing the harms of formal processing in the juvenile justice system, the range of alternatives officers can use to de-escalate interactions with youth and restorative just practices, which are more affective in redressing the harm youth have done to each other and their communities.

Police/youth interactions are key factors in youths' perception of the legitimacy of government. In the words of one big city police chief, "Most youth have very few interactions with police; it's important that officers get that interaction right and the kid comes out respecting the officer and the law."

For these reasons, we urge you to promote training that supports developmental competence, includes best practices for de-escalationg situations and averting violence, employs diversion programs, and uses the most affective interventions to reduce violence.

Without this level of commitment to training officers, our law enforcement will be ill equipped to serve our youth and communities.