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November | December 2014

OJJDP Focuses on Law Enforcement Interactions With Youth at International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference

IACP 2014 October 25-28, Orlando, FL, Orange County Convention Center

Research has shown that the mind of a young person deals with trauma much differently than the mind of an adult. Exposure to violence can profoundly derail a child well into adulthood, a key reason why law enforcement can benefit from using developmentally based techniques in dealing with young people. Knowing how to communicate with a young person can help prevent violence and protect youth from unnecessary arrests because of what could have been a minor issue. Developmentally based practices were discussed in several sessions featuring OJJDP at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 121st Annual Conference, which took place October 25–28, 2014, in Orlando, FL.

Office of Justice Programs Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason and OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee attended and delivered remarks at the IACP’s Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Committee meeting "Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence," held on October 25, 2014. "Events have produced a perfect storm ... for changes in juvenile justice," said Assistant Attorney General Mason in her remarks.

This advisory working group meeting convened to share updates of a multiyear initiative to educate law enforcement personnel about the effects of children’s exposure to violence. Supported by OJJDP, IACP, in partnership with the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence/Childhood Violent Trauma Center at the Yale Child Study Center, the initiative will provide tools, resources, and training and technical assessment that can equip law enforcement agency operations, activities, policies and procedures to meaningfully address the issue. The discussion was led by Steven Marans, M.S.W., Ph.D., director, National Center for Children Exposed to Violence/Childhood Violent Trauma Center, Yale University, and Dean Esserman, chief of the New Haven (CT) Police Department and chair of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Committee.

Attendees discussed the need for a juvenile justice cultural transformation during "Reducing the Trust Deficit With Communities of Color," an open forum attended by Assistant Attorney General Mason and Administrator Listenbee on October 26, and volunteered numerous recommendations for improving community–law enforcement relationships, including partnering with influential people and organizations within the community, creating positive incentives for front line officers, and emphasizing youth focus and experience with youth as incumbent skills for chief-of-police candidates.

On October 28, Administrator Listenbee moderated a panel entitled “Law Enforcement and Youth: A Police Chief’s Role, Responsibilities, and Abilities for Youth and Violence Prevention,” which took place as part of a chief executives’ workshop. Panelists provided practical tactics for serving youth who are or have been victims, have been exposed to violence or other trauma, and/or have been status offenders.

Howard Spivak, M.D., Deputy Director and Chief of Staff at the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice and former director of the Division of Violence Prevention and Control within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention; Chief Esserman of the New Haven Police Department; Toney Armstrong, director of the Memphis (TN) Police Department; and La’Tonya Bey, Officer, Philadelphia (PA) Police Department, comprised the panel.

Dr. Spivak spoke about why young people think differently; the law officials each provided an overview of the models they are following in their cities.


Access tools, training and technical assistance, and other resources from IACP’s online Youth-Focused Policing Resource Center. Funded by OJJDP, the center is a clearinghouse of information and resources relating to youth crime, delinquency, and victimization.

Read about the IACP–MacArthur Foundation partnership to advance law enforcement’s leadership role in juvenile justice on the IACP Web site.