July | August 2017

Institute for Police-Youth Engagement Helps To Build Bridges

Stock photo of female police officer and three youthLaw enforcement plays a significant role in the outcomes of youth with whom they interact. They have an opportunity to foster positive youth development, create lasting community relationships, or aid a child’s recovery in the wake of a violent or traumatic event. Additionally, a decision to make an arrest, divert, cite, give a warning, or intervene with a youth can significantly impact the lives of youth and their communities.

On July 18–20, 2017, OJJDP sponsored the second Institute for Police-Youth Engagement in Charlotte, NC, in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. Twenty-nine law enforcement leaders and 25 youth were selected to participate in the 3-day training which provided law enforcement personnel with best practices and innovative approaches for interacting with youth.

One of the most powerful components of the institute was the police-youth roundtable dialogue. Designed to engage youth, the discussion was sincere and frank, revealing frustrations and challenges both sides face. Youth participants reported that the opportunity to listen to and be heard by the officers was invaluable.

The roundtable model is one tool law enforcement agencies can use to foster productive interactions with the communities they police and with youth in particular. The exercise inspired passionate pleas from youth who were eager to learn how to approach and engage with law enforcement in their communities. OJJDP was able to facilitate connections for those seeking specific points of contact.

“Adults must seek out youth in their communities to train, engage, and empower them to become change agents,” OJJDP Deputy Administrator Chyrl Jones told the attendees. “Use your positions as chiefs of police to lead the charge by improving how law enforcement personnel engage youth,” Ms. Jones said.

The institute covered a variety of topics, including adolescent brain development and children's exposure to violence. Although many difficult issues were discussed, attendees were able to inject some fun in the days’ activities during the Police-Youth Bowling Tournament.

Participants left motivated and committed to engaging one another in conversations that will help to resolve tensions and improve interactions within their respective communities.


Access the OJJDPIACP brief, The Effects of Adolescent Development on Policing online.