Archive for the Collaboration Category

Police and Teenagers: What We Need To Know About Each Other

Captain Nick Frances (Apple Valley, MN, police department) recently co-wrote an article for the Journal of School Safety with Grace Richarda, a local high school teen. The article offers advice, from both perspectives, about how to better understand and communicate with each other.

We live in a changing and evolving world, made even more complex by the advent of digital communication. While teens may prefer to communicate digitally or “virtually,” in the police world, a vast majority of contact happens face to face. Each group has it’s own cultural norms that the other might not fully understand or appreciate. With some solid communication and an open mind, teens and police can get along and even appreciate each other.

Read the full article (PDF) »
(Reprinted with permission of the author.)










Youth + Sports + Dedicated Police Officer = T.U.F.F. “The Ultimate Family Foundation”

Youth + Sports + Dedicated Police Officer = T.U.F.F. “The Ultimate Family Foundation”

Virginia Beach, Virginia is known for its beautiful beaches and boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean. And, like many American cities, it is filled with children living in poverty and violence. It is also home to a remarkable community program for youth at-risk created by a Master Police Officer in the Virginia Beach Police Department.

037-vs. steelers playoffs 142 - CopyOne Saturday afternoon in 2007, Master Police Officer David Nieves and his wife, Nayla, took their excited 12-year-old son to his first practice of the Green Run Recreation League football team in Virginia Beach, VA. They arrived to find 12 other waiting children in total disarray, with no coach and no plan. In quick order, Officer Nieves also became Coach David, and Nayla Nieves became chief organizer, volunteer recruiter, cook and cheerleader. The nervous 12 year olds became The Spartans who soon won the Recreation League Football Championship of Virginia Beach.

Master Officer Nieves also quickly determined that these at-risk children needed to know more than the basics of football. Many of them lived in families teetering on disaster. He and Nayla developed a full program of goal setting, community service and building self-esteem for the team. Some children needed food, shelter and tutoring at points during their four-month season. Providing for these basic needs were also incorporated into the program.

Season begins with a camping trip, 4 days of waking before 5 AM to run on the beach at sunrise, team exercises and nutritional instruction. In order to earn their football jerseys, team members also plan community service activities to perform once the camping trip has ended.

“We try to instill in these youngsters that they are valuable kids, “ said Master Office Nieves. “They can make a real contribution to their neighborhood just by picking up trash and cleaning up empty lots. And their parents and younger siblings often join in.

“Once the boys get their Spartan jerseys, they know they are wearing a real sign of respect for the community and a commitment to their team,” he said.

Now an organization of 200 kids and more than 35 adult volunteers, TUFF helps children deal DSC_0020with issues such as single parent homes, anger, hunger, loneliness, gang recruitment, homelessness.  It also takes children on field trips to their state capital, Richmond, to meet their delegates and to learn that they, too, can look to a future of a being a member of the House of Delegates. All they have to do is live the fundamentals taught by their coach.   This extraordinary program, begun by a police officer and his family, has garnered The Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge National Award. TUFF has applied for 501(c) 3 status.

Not incidentally, the Spartans have won 13 combined football championships from all age groups since 2007. Watch them win a championship by clicking here.

Strategies for Youth salutes the vision, commitment and humanity of Officer David Nieves and his volunteers for the community-building they’ve achieved with young people and the communities of Virginia Beach.

Think About It First! Cards

Sergeant Kenneth GreenAlthough we’d like to, Strategies for Youth can’t take full credit for our Think About It First! cards, pocket-sized tools that warn about the collateral consequences of arrest and involvement in the juvenile justice system. The original idea belongs to Sergeant Kenneth Green of the MBTA Transit Police in Boston.


Stationed for five years at Boston’s Ruggles Station, an inner city subway stop walking distance from two college campuses, Sergeant Green has had plenty of interactions with youth. At Ruggles, he encountered youth who were loud, rowdy, and had a penchant for challenging authority, but he always kept these interactions in perspective.

“You’ve got to remember they’re kids,” he said. “As police officers you try not to take it to heart. They’re immature and we got to keep that in mind.”

During his time at Ruggles, Sergeant Green unknowingly developed what would later become the Think About It First! approach.

“It wasn’t rocket science to think about this,” he said. “Why don’t we let them know what happens if you’re placed under arrest? You want to mature, buy a home, have a family, go in the service – an arrest may prevent you from doing that.”

Looking back, Sergeant Green, who has been promoted to Deputy Chief, says this approach was effective with nine out of the ten kids he came into contact with. “They got the message,” he said.

Now in a supervisory role, Deputy Chief Green views the cards as a great tool for officers in the transit system to build positive relationships with youth, and to give kids a second chance. “In law enforcement you’re supposed to be big tough guys, but we have to remember that we were all kids too,” he said.


“Beyond helping kids, Think About It First! cards have also proved to be an asset for police. In Minnesota, the MN Second Chance Coalition in partnership with the St. Paul Police Department began its Think About It First! initiative, funded by the MN Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, by distributing the cards to law enforcement during roll calls in St. Paul. They were surprised to find many officers previously unaware of the information on the cards.”

“This is important information for judges and law enforcement to consider,” said Sarah Walker of 180 Degrees, a MN Second Chance Coalition program. “Many officers don’t know the technicalities of the juvenile law.” Walker believes the cards help officers better use their discretion when determining whether or not involving a youth in the juvenile justice system is an appropriate response.

The MN Second Chance Coalition and the St. Paul Police Department have already distributed almost 300,000 cards in Minnesota and plan to bring their message to school posters and city bus stops, as well. The International Association of Chiefs of Police will also feature this Think About It First! initiative at its 2012 convention.


In Indiana, Think About It First! efforts are also off to a running start. Spearheaded by the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA), this particular initiative builds off the American Bar Association’s Think Before You Plea project. In addition to the cards, the ISBA is also developing juvenile justice fact sheets for youth and families that deal with important issues like expunging juvenile records, and the law on juvenile sex offenses. This important information is being shared statewide at trainings for law enforcement, educators, and other juvenile justice stakeholders, where use of the cards is being promoted.

“So far, we have presented at and distributed cards to a statewide urban education conference, a crisis intervention training (CIT) for school based law enforcement in Marion County, and a statewide juvenile justice training sponsored by NAMI Indiana,” said JauNae Hanger of Waples & Hanger, and the ISBA. “We have plans to present and distribute cards to other professional associations, including Indiana prosecutors and detention center directors.”

And there are plans for even further expansion Hanger says. Thirteen school resource officers have signed up to distribute the cards and two local judges have asked that the cards be replicated in their counties. The ISBA has made the cards available for their use electronically. They are also exploring opportunities with several child-serving organizations statewide, hoping to bring the Think About It First!initiative to the populations they serve. Learn more about Think About It First Indiana.

SFY Can Make Think About It First! Cards for Your Department

At Strategies for Youth we want everybody to be able to use ourThink About It First! cards, so we customize them to each locality. Juvenile law varies from state to state. And even within one state, juvenile interests can be widely divergent too. “Greater Minnesota youth are interested in a felony charge prohibiting them for getting a gun for hunting, city youth don’t have that concern,” noted Walker.

In addition to their specificity Think About It First! cards fit perfectly in a wallet or purse and are easy for youth and professionals to hold onto and refer to frequently. Strategies for Youth has found that many of the youth to whom the cards have been distributed keep them for a long time. Youth also pass along the information on the cards, increasing awareness of the collateral consequences of arrest and involvement in their juvenile justice system among their peers.

So far, the replication of SFY’sThink About It First! cards has been met with much success and many more calls for replication. Strategies for Youth is hopeful that the use of the cards will continue to grow, and is eager to work with anyone who wants to create their own version of the Think About It First! card. There are plans to increase the cards’ distribution and bring their message to other venues.

Learn more about our current Think About It First! efforts or contact us about creating a card for your community.

Police Recruits Learn From Youth Service Providers

Police recruits in classroomMultnomah County is often on the cutting edge of innovation for juvenile detention reform. Innovations in training the city’s police force to work with youth is another example of out-of-the-box thinking.

Multnomah’s internship for police recruits, called the “Community Academy,” focuses on youth and juvenile justice, as well as its case processing agreement, all make it a national standout. And that’s only part of the story: Multnomah’s success in reducing the number of youth referred to formal processing and detention distinguish Multnomah County’s approach to policing and working with at risk youth in the nation.

Recruits Learn How to Work with Juveniles Mano-a-Mano

On any given day in Portland, you may find a police recruit conducting intake or looking for a runaway. The recruit placements include Janus Homeless Shelter for Youth, Outside In, and New Avenues for Youth.


To date, over 50 police recruits have gone through this internship prior to attending the Police Academy. The internship lasts approximately 7 days but may be extended in the future due to the overwhelming request of other community providers who want to be involved in the Community Academy.

Lt. Virtue reports that many recruits “feel they are in a better place than they were prior to the internship” and that it has expanded their understanding of the challenges youth face and the scope of alternatives available to them.

This approach, is in line with recruits interests when they arrive at the PPB: “Their first impulse is to want to be helpful,” explained Lt. Virtue. These opportunities help young officers learn the importance of policing through partnering with community leaders and experts and the long lasting importance of building relationships with youth.

“We think this has been a huge success,” said Rick Jensen, Multnomah County Juvenile Detention Alternative Coordinator who recommended that other police departments adopt this innovative approach.

During the Community Academy recruits are given a week long, intensive training on youth issues. The topics covered include “Adolescent Brain Development & the Goofy Kid Syndrome,” gangs, homelessness, child sex trafficking and school issues.

Tina Edge, the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Coordinator Assistant teaches recruits about the negative impacts of detention and promotes the value of police taking the opportunity to understand youth.

“The main focus of this partnership is designed to teach new police officers how the juvenile justice system works as well as a variety of community policing skills,” she explained. “We do this by placing police interns into community service organizations early in their careers and exposing them to the types of complex social issues that they will face in the field. This also helps us work in partnership with police, community service providers to strategize ways to improve how the system works to promote public safety.”

Tom Cleary, Senior District Attorney agrees. “This program also allows for youth to see police in a different way and hopefully develop methods of communication that will aid in avoiding formal involvement in the delinquency system.”

More information on SIRN (System Integration & Resource Network) formerly Community Academy.

Stakeholders in the Multnomah Juvenile Justice world recognized that the use of detention was problematic. Too often, the use of detention with young offenders became an inadvertent source of recidivism, an the use of formal court processing for minor offenses seemed to result in more youth being pushed deeper into the system. With the support of the Casey Foundation and its focus on creating alternatives to detention, they regrouped, developed partnerships, and systems that are showing impressive results.

The first step was getting the stakeholders to the table to develop an agreed upon “decision tree” for dealing with cases using an approach that integrates an evaluation of the legal sufficiency of a police complaint with a case-by-case determination of what responses best meet individual youth’s needs. Known as the Case Processing Agreement, this approach has impressively reduced the number of youth prosecuted, allowing DAs to focus their energies and effort on the most serious cases and reduce the use of detention for youth charged with minor offenses. Read Multnomah County Case Processing Agreement [PDF]

Senior District Attorney Tom Cleary is an ardent proponent of this approach. “The case processing agreement is a living document that furthers our intent to have “the right kid in the right place,” he explained. “The intent of all system partners is to create a system that provides for the appropriate level of intervention as required for public safety and successful development of the youth.”

Like the Clayton County ticketing system featured on SFY’s Promising Practices earlier this year, police and then DA’s and the Juvenile Community Justice department triage charges against youth and whether to proceed to formal or informal processing. Under this approach, there is explicit agreement about which misdemeanors are divertible (i.e. simple assault, shoplifting), and which are not (i.e. sex offenses, firearm possession, assaulting an officer). The agreement structures how exceptions to the rule must be considered, and which offenses require special attention and review. The agreement also sets forth the benefits of informal processing.

The result is a system in which there is a transparent logic and criteria for decision making—but not at the cost of practitioners’ use of discretion.

One unusual feature of this approach is its focus on domestic violence charges brought against youth. While many domestic violence charges are misdemeanors, the team focuses on the extent of injury, the gravity, and the threat of ongoing violence in each of these cases to determine whether it merits informal or formal processing. This has helped stakeholders focus on what may explain a youth’s behavior and how to address its root causes.

The result, Rick Jensen says, is “proof of the power of stakeholders working together, communicating with each other and creating a collaborative safety net for these youth.”

Changing the Playbook for Police in Schools

Something had to give. The courts were paralyzed by the influx of youth arrested in the schools. The police could not keep up with the paperwork demands of all the arrests, much less the court time or the time out of the schools. Youth were dropping out of school at record rates.  Youth advocates were up in arms over so many youth missing so much class time waiting in court. Everyone was angry.

And something gave.

C.C.P.D. SRO Kenneth Cameron utilizing our Notice of Offense protocol with one of his studentsLed by Judge Steven Teske of the Clayton County Juvenile Court, each stakeholder was persuaded to give up a bit of their control and to reconsider the value and purpose of arresting youth in school.  “I made it clear that I thought the practice was harmful to children, a bad use of resources, and a bad message to be giving kids about school,” said Judge Teske.

In 2004, Clayton County Juvenile Court, Clayton County Police Department and the Clayton County Public School District chose a new, proactive approach to policing schools.  In what is now considered a model program, promoted and replicated by judges and school districts across the nation, police presence in schools employs an educational and counseling approach, graduated sanctions and warnings are used, and arrest is saved for serious infractions and used as a last resort.

“The collaborative approach we are using is the key,” says Adolphus Graves, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Coordinator for Clayton County.  “The court had to be willing to hear the concerns of the police department, school system administrators and vice versa.  Our goal is to keep schools safe without diluting the powers of the police by putting so much police attention on infractions that are much less serious in nature.”

An agreement known as The School Referral Reduction Protocol was reached that identified 5 focus acts which would lead to school-based, educational responses to correct misconduct, and not to arrest. The Protocol [PDF] defines its terms and the triage approach as well as makes provision for emergency shelter care when parents cannot be located.

Youth would first get a warning when they committed any of the 5 focus acts which are Affray (mutual fighting between two participants), Disorderly Conduct, Disrupting a Public School, Criminal Trespass, and Misdemeanor Obstruction (failing to obey the commands of a police officer). The Warning [PDF] notes potential consequences, including court referrals, and requires parents to attend a workshop with their child or risk the child going to court.

Other youth would get a referral when they had previously received a warning for acts noted above and/or had been involved in bullying.  Youth who receive a referral must attend a School Conflict Diversion Program or a Mediation Program, with their parent(s).

Police will file a complaint when a youth has received a 3rd or 4th offense against public order or a third bullying offense.

This collaborative effort led to the use of a triage system with 980 youth from the schools between 2003 and 2004. Statistically, the results were impressive: Of the 980 youth who went through the new system, only 98 (10%) were guilty of re-offending within a two year period.  This approach saved police and probation officer time and resources, it reduced the number of days students were missing to attend court.

“It was hard at first,” said Sgt. Marc Richards who now leads the program as Sub Commander of the Clayton County Police Department.  Richards speaks to police departments across the nation about how effective the program is.

“A police response is typically, ‘When an infraction is committed, it’s my job to arrest.’ They didn’t want to delve deeper into why a kid was behaving badly. So we had to change that.”

Richards explained that with the development of this protocol, it was easier and quicker to go through the protocol, document the issue and issue a ticket to a student than to arrest them.  “Over time using the protocol was easier and more effective. It’s shorter than a complaint form.”

“It was more effective because we could distinguish kids who took the warning seriously from those who did not. With those who heard us we could focus on developing a relationship with them and they’d feel that you’d taken care of them and they became your eyes and ears in the school.”

“We showed that this approach could save a lot of valuable resources and time for probation officers who used to be overwhelmed by the number of school based arrests for low level offenses committed by children who wouldn’t receive further charges anyway,” said Graves.  “Now they have reasonable caseloads and the time to focus on kids who really need the supervision, which creates a safer community for all.”

Now police officers are focusing much less on arrests and much more on being available to counsel youth or just be there for them. “So many kids need more time from their parents than they can get. We found that by taking that parenting role a bit, we could get better behavior from the kids, less arrests, and safer schools,” Richards said.

“Now we’re in a win-win situation,” said Judge Teske. “Schools focus on educating kids academically and behaviorally, and kids feel it is their safe haven; the police use their powers selectively for kids who really pose a danger, and the court focuses on the kids who need the most services and support. That’s the balance
we needed to achieve.”

Interested? Contact:

Sgt. Marc Richards at
Adolphus Graves at