Survey: Police Must Receive More Training on How to Work With Youth

BOSTON — A nationwide survey conducted by Strategies for Youth (SFY), reveals that police recruits are not adequately trained to work with youth and are often unaware of the most effective, developmentally appropriate communication and intervention strategies.

The non-profit policy and training organization works to improve police/youth interactions and reduce disproportionate minority contact. In its report titled “If Not Now, When?”, SFY found that on average the nation’s police academies’ training on juvenile justice and youth issues is only six hours —1% of total academy training hours. Police academies’ curricula focus almost exclusively on juvenile law. The survey found that most academies provide officers no information on juvenile brain development and its implications for youth conduct, or best practices for working with youth.

“Our survey found that academies rarely provide recruits with the most current information or the best practices to work effectively with youth,” said Lisa Thurau, executive director of SFY. “This lack of training means police interactions with youth are harder than they need to be and are more likely to end badly for both youth and police.”

Thurau noted that SFY’s survey findings are of especial concern given so little in-service training is available to police officers nationwide. A 2011 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) survey found many departments provide no in-service training on youth issues and have not done so in more than 5 years.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is quickly adopting new information on the teen brain, while police training academies are leaving officers in the dark,” said Thurau. “Academies need to equip officers with information on adolescent development and mental health issues that other juvenile justice system stakeholders routinely use in their work.”

The report recommends increased federal leadership and allocation of resources to better train officers to work with youth.

To read the full report, click here.

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