An Avoidable Murder: Better Training for Policing Teenagers 09-07-18

Last week, a Dallas County jury sentenced former police officer Roy Oliver to 15 years in prison for murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Oliver shot Edwards in the head while he was in a car with several other teenagers. Edwards might not have lost his life if Oliver had been better trained in the unique aspects of policing teens.

Police receive training in many specialty areas: crime scene preservation, criminal investigations, digital technology crime, fire-related crimes, hostage-taking, interviewing, school-related crime, domestic terrorism, undercover survival techniques, etc. But one kind of training is not offered often or widely enough — training for law enforcement officials regarding how exactly to deal with juveniles.

In 2018, it’s rare that officers are trained how to interact effectively with youths. Indeed, a 2013 study of how many police recruits received training on how to interact with youths found that only six hours, or about 1 percent of basic training in police academies, was spent on juvenile justice issues. And most of that time was devoted to the legal issues surrounding youth custody, transport and detention.

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