Independent Evaluations of SFY's Impact

Gender and race influence youths’ responses to a training on the law and safe police interactions

Youth-police contact is frequent and can have seriously harmful consequences. To improve youth-police relations, it is important to equip both police and youth with the tools needed to encourage the safest interactions. Few programs exist to educate youth about the law or how to interact with police. We used a mixed-methods approach to evaluate a school-based program for middle and high school students in the U.S. that focused on educating them about the law and strategies to promote safer youth-police interactions. We obtained data from Strategies for Youth, the organization that provides a Juvenile Justice Curriculum including Juvenile Justice Jeopardy. Participants (N¼872, ages 10–20) in five states completed pen-and-paper surveys immediately before and immediately after completing the program. Participants’ knowledge increased after the program, particularly for self-defense claims following a fight and about pat downs. Gender and race impacted some knowledge-based responses, highlighting some potential differences in socialization. Most participants indicated that they felt more prepared to effectively interact with police officers. 42% of youths believed that they could learn similar information from the Internet. Our study demonstrated that the Strategies for Youth curriculum is feasible and demonstrates promise in improving youths’ knowledge and self-reported skills to safely interact with police.

Rebecca L. Fix, Adam D. Fine & Pamela A. Matson (2023): Gender and race influence youths’ responses to a training on the law and safe police interactions, Justice Evaluation Journal, DOI: 10.1080/24751979.2023.2179418

Working to improve youth-police interactions: Young people's negative experience with police limits training effectiveness.

Rebecca L. Fix, Ph.D.Monique Jindal, M.D., M.P.H.Adam Fine, Ph.D. (Publication forthcoming, 2023)

Police receive extensive training due to the complexity and challenges of their work. Surprisingly, most police officers receive minimal training on how to understand and interact with adolescents. The current study included data from 1,030 law enforcement officers from 24 police departments evaluating perceived readiness to interact and work with adolescents in the community. We examined overall training needs, and then tested how experience in law enforcement and position or rank impacted self-identified training needs. Rank was associated with police officer perceptions of adolescents and related training needs. Compared with patrol officers, school resource officers indicated that they believed they had the skills needed to effectively work with adolescents [P = 0.001, odds ration (OR) = 2.5]. Beat or area patrol officers were significantly less likely than school resource officers to report feeling equipped to work with adolescents who have experienced trauma compared with new recruits (P < 0.001, OR = 0.3) and other non-patrol police officers (P = 0.001, OR = 0.6). School resource officers were significantly more likely to view adolescents as positive assets to the community (P = 0.003, OR = 2.8), and were significantly less likely to understand why Black adolescents or other adolescents of colour might mistrust police compared with both new recruits (P < 0.001, OR = 0.2) and patrol officers (P < 0.001, OR = 0.5). Overarching training needs are illuminated by these unique data.

Rebecca L Fix, Jeffrey Aaron, and Sheldon Greenberg

Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, Volume 15, Issue 4, Pages 2252–2268 | Published online: 27 July 2021

This research study analyzed 944 pre-training and 871 post-training survey responses from a youth-specific in-service police training. Before training, police largely had negative views on youth, but are interested in improving their knowledge and interaction skills with youth. Post-training, police demonstrated significant improvement in their self-skill ratings and acknowledged various behavior-related changes they planned to make when interacting with youth. Patterns in responses also emerged based on officer characteristics. Training appears helpful in changing youth-related knowledge, beliefs, and skills in officers and to match the expectations or desires of officers receiving the training. The results from these training surveys highlight unique opportunities for future investigation and practice, such modifications to training content and delivery, and for policy initiatives, including consistently integrating youth training into police education.

Jessica Salley Riccardi, Gabriella Celeste and Anastasia Dimitropoulos

Police Practice and Research, Vol 23, Issue 2, Pages 174-194 | Published online: 12 Jul 2021

This pilot study assessed whether police officers and juvenile justice personnel reported improved attitudes toward youth and knowledge about de-escalation skills after attending Policing the Teen Brain, a training created to prevent arrests by improving officer-youth interactions. Pre- and post-intervention surveys asked about participant attitudes toward adolescents, adolescence as a stressful stage, and punishing youth in the justice system. Among the 232 participants, paired sample t-tests indicated significant differences between mean pre- and post-survey responses on nearly all survey subscales. A hierarchical regression model significantly predicted improvement in knowledge, with educated, female participants most likely to improve knowledge of de-escalation skills.

Matthew C. Aalsma, Katherine Schwartz, and Wanzhu Tu

Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, Volume 57, Issue 7, Pages 415-430 | Published online: 09 Feb 2019

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