Youth Engagement and Intervention: Good Deeds and Everything In-Between

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers several recommendations and action items for building trust and creating opportunities for positive interactions between youth and law enforcement. Highlights of the recommendations include: engaging youth through problem solving, community action programs; developing community and school-based programs that mitigate punitive and authoritarian solutions; and encouraging the use of alternative strategies that involve youth in decision making.

doral-pdThe Doral, Florida, Police Department recognizes that in order to effectively increase the safety and quality of life in the community, each officer must connect with and build trust with young people. The department has implemented many of the Task Force’s recommendations and action items in this area through innovative, broad-based youth outreach programs.

The majority of Doral’s youth programming is managed by the Neighborhood Resource Unit (NRU), a team of five officers and one sergeant. The team actively works together to produce quality community policing-based projects and programs. The NRU coordinates traditional community outreach, like DARE instruction, bullying presentations at local schools, mentoring, DUI prevention presentations, security surveys, Crime Watch programs, canned food drives, a Residential Crime Prevention Initiative, and an annual Shop with a Cop toy drive.

DSC_0098.jpgTwo of Doral’s more noteworthy youth engagement programs are the Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow Up Youth Intervention Program and the Project Scout/Good Deed Program.

Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow-Up Youth Intervention Program

Officers assigned to the Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow-Up Youth Intervention Program make follow-up contacts with any juvenile offender/and or their parents in an effort to prevent and deter future offenses. Any field contacts with juveniles regarding criminal or destructive behavior patterns are forwarded by patrol to the NRU for follow up. NRU officers gain insight into a juvenile’s home life and have an opportunity to provide assistance if necessary by leveraging connections with area resources. This program fosters unique relationships between officers, the juveniles, and their families, showing that the Doral Police Department truly cares about each and every case.

Project Scout/Good Deed Program

The Project Scout/Good Deed Program is an effort to encourage more positive interactions with children in the community. Each NRU officer assigned to the campaign issues at least one “good behavior ticket” in specific communities per day. Officers actively recognize positive behaviors being displayed by the kids. Examples include participation in after school sport programs, community service, or general good behavior. Students get a certificate or prizes donated from local businesses. Not only does this program encourage good behavior and positive actions, but it helps officers connect with youth in schools and in the community in a nonenforcement manner.

The Juvenile Arrest/Runaway Follow-Up Youth Intervention Program and Project Scout/Good Deed Program are just two examples of Doral’s use of creative and alternative methods to encourage positive interactions, build trust, and increase the safety of youth and the community.

The 21st Century Policing Task Force’s youth-focused action items are listed below for your consideration and implementation.

1.5.3 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should create opportunities in schools and communities for positive nonenforcement interactions with police.  Agencies should also publicize the beneficial outcomes and images of positive, trust-building partnerships and initiatives. 4.5.2 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies should engage youth and communities in joint training with law enforcement, citizen academies, ride-alongs, problem solving teams, community action teams, and quality of life teams.
4.6.1. Action Item:  Education and criminal justice agencies at all levels of government should work together to reform policies and procedures that push children into the juvenile justice system. 4.6.2. Action Item: In order to keep youth in school and keep them from criminal and violent behavior, law enforcement agencies should work with schools to encourage the creation of alternatives to student suspensions and expulsion through restorative justice, diversion, counseling, and family interventions
4.6.3 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to encourage the use of alternative strategies that involve youth in decision making, such as restorative justice, youth courts, and peer interventions. 4.6.4 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to adopt an instructional approach to discipline that uses interventions or disciplinary consequences to help students develop new behavior skills and positive strategies to avoid conflict, redirect energy, refocus on learning.
4.6.5 Action Item:  Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to develop and monitor school discipline policies with input and collaboration from school personnel, students, families and community members.  These policies should prohibit the use of corporal punishment and electronic control devices. 4.6.6 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies should work with schools to create a continuum of developmentally appropriate and proportional consequences for addressing ongoing and escalating student misbehavior after all appropriate interventions have been attempted.
4.6.7 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies should work with communities to play a role in programs and procedures to reintegrate juveniles back into their communities as they leave the juvenile justice system. 4.6.8 Action ItemLaw enforcement agencies and schools should establish memoranda of agreement for the placement of School Resource Officers that limit police involvement in student discipline. 
4.7.1 Action Item:  Communities and law enforcement agencies should restore and build trust between youth and police by creating programs and projects for positive, consistent, and persistent interaction between youth and police. 4.7.2 Action Item:  Communities should develop community and school-based, evidence-based programs that mitigate punitive and authoritarian solutions to teen problems.

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This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations. Doral is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

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