Review: Law Enforcement’s Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform

Reviewer: Sarah Krantz, Esq.

Article to be Reviewed: Bahney, Anna; Daugirda, Ryan; Firman, John; and Rhudy, Aviva. Law Enforcement’s Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform Actionable Recommendations for Practice and Policy, IACP National Summit on Law Enforcement Leadership in Juvenile Justice with support of the MacArthur Foundation (July 2014) http://www.iacp.org/portals/0/documents/pdfs/JuvenileJusticeSummitReport.pdf.


The National Summit on Law Enforcement Leadership in Juvenile Justice was designed to “support law enforcement agencies nationwide in becoming more effective leaders in juvenile justice reform.” The International Association of Chiefs of Police convened the summit, which included a variety of juvenile justice stakeholders, in Virginia in 2013.

The summit had two goals: to help law enforcement officers develop tools to prevent crime while dealing with youth in a developmentally appropriate way and to enable officers to take a more active role in their communities. Nearly one thousand law enforcement executives across the country completed the survey. The report found eight areas within law enforcement where change should be enacted.

Making Juvenile Justice a Priority within Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Juvenile justice should become a priority with an increase in training focused on improved techniques to interact with youth and collaboration with families and the community.
  • Incorporation of rewards, performance evaluations, and commendations.
  • Internal agency policies should be created to address youth.
  • Peer organizations should support police in implementing juvenile justice practice through developing model policies, providing training, and distributing information so that police policies stay current.
  • Increase in national and regional dialogues regarding juvenile justice reform.

Building Partnerships among Law Enforcement, Youth, & Their Families

  • Build relationships with families and youth in non-crisis situations—capitalize on positive interactions.
  • Establish training programs that focus on adolescent development, mental health, trauma, and interventions.
  • Establish programs where police can educate families within the community on juvenile justice issues—their rights, court system, and available programs.
  • Expand avenues for referrals in juveniles cases to mediation and other restorative justice processes including diversionary programs.
  • Integrate building trust into programs and recognize that past abuses fuel the legacy of mistrust in police agencies.
  • Police agencies should be included in community improvement programs to stay connected to community members.

Collaboration and Information Sharing

  • “Law enforcement leaders should establish or join an existing interagency juvenile justice council.”
  • Establish an interagency Juvenile Justice Coordinator to facilitate the work in the community.
  • “Work with community partners to establish memoranda on juvenile justice issues.”
  • “Continue with training programs, including webinars and best practice guides, which should be provided to all law enforcement.”

Promotion Alternatives to Arrest, Court Referral & Detention

  • Law enforcement needs to be fully educated on what diversionary programs exist, how to access them, and when to refer juveniles into one.

Expanding Data Collection & Promising Initiatives

  • Use data to drive policies within police agencies and to help make the case for reforms within the agency.
  • Work with academic institutions to create juvenile justice initiatives.
  • Law enforcement leaders need educational training on the collection of data so it can be used to inform decision-making.

Pathways to School Completion

  • School completion must be a central goal of school safety, discipline, and truancy problems.
  • Schools and law enforcement need to work together to establish how they can work together for the students—encouraging learning and safety.
  • Assess the school behaviors that most lead to arrest within schools and help to establish policies to correct these behaviors before arrest is needed.
  • If a school resource officer exists within a school, they need to be trained and have shown a commitment to youth and their families.

Responding to Youth with Behavioral Health Conditions & Trauma Histories

  • Law enforcement practices should teach officers how to respond to juveniles with mental health or substance abuse disorders. Officers should know to respond upon first contact with a juvenile and how to respond to one if a crisis should arise.
  • Training on juvenile trauma—its effects, how officers can further contribute to trauma, and how to help children recover from this trauma

Amplifying Law Enforcements Advocacy on Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Build and bring awareness to developmentally appropriate responses to youth crime.
  • Share success stories throughout the law enforcement community.
  • Advocate for juvenile justice reform.